Italians do it better. It's a sentiment often seen on t-shirts and cooking aprons, but for the true embodiment of this old adage, one need look no further than Conte di Savoia. This Little Italy mainstay is many things to many Chicagoans. For many—including a wealth of nearby UIC students—it's the ultimate lunch spot for an authentic Italian sandwich, with delicately smoked prosciutto and fresh mozzarella cheese. One taste, and you'll travel for miles for a repeat performance. For others, it's one of the only places in the city that serves up a genuine, old-world cappuccino. Still others hunt through the grocery shelves to find essential ingredients for their culinary arsenals.
For all the instant gratification options at the deli, it's the sundries lining the shelves that make Conte di Savoia a destination. Here you'll find olive oils from all over Italy--the selection largely consists of regional brands directly from family-run groves, in vessels ranging from tiny bottles to heavy tin jugs. Across the aisle from this oil mecca is an equally compelling array of canned tomatoes--ideal for starting an all-day sauce. Those that lack culinary ability will find the selection of homemade sauces, raviolis and even full-pan lasagnas ideal for faking it. Freshly baked breads, wines that suit every price range and a colorful assortment of jarred condiments add the finishing touches to any menu.
The enormous range of choices here guarantees to satisfy all first-time visitors, but it's the little touches that keep them coming back; in the summertime, you can expect sidewalk tables and freshly potted herbs to take home. If you call ahead, they'll even arrange a picnic basket for you.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: K. Tighe