The closest thing to home cooking

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We Italians seem to have favorite places we seek out to remind us of our food heritage. Those fortunate enough to have enjoyed their mother’s and grandmothers’ homemade specialties are often disappointed when eating out at Italian restaurants.

It’s just never quite like their mother’s home cooking. It’s not that we’re snooty or difficult, but I’m guessing that our taste buds are more discriminating than our non-Italian friends’ when it comes to Italian food.

My mother would say, “It’s not their fault, they just don’t know any better.” From minestrone to tortellini in brodo, marinara to Bolognese meat sauce, lasagna to veal parmigiana, it’s just never the same.

Though there are plenty of fine Italian restaurants, cafes and delis in the Chicago area, the best ones are cozy neighborhood spots where the owners recognize and welcome us when we walk in the door.

The following are just two of those favorite spots where Italians frequent because the food is authentic. In the next few months, I’ll take you on a visit to several more. If you haven’t tried Poeta’s and Pastificio!, be sure to pay a visit; you won’t be disappointed. Who knows, you may just see someone you know in there!

Poeta’s Food Mart
520 Green Bay Road
Highwood, Illinois 60040
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 8-6; Sun, 9-2


Dominic and Lucca Poeta, originally from Abruzzo, started this business in 1978. Just about every Italian I know buys their sausage here. It’s great! If you like it with fennel, order it in advance. In addition to deli items, the butcher brothers offer custom meat cuts, pre-seasoned selections like their famous oven-ready, de-boned whole chicken, Italian roast beef au jus, and other delectable items. With their fresh bread, they will even make a panino to your liking. According to Dominic, people come from all over to buy their specialties. Poeta’s even ships to Florida, New York and services restaurants as far as Indiana. When I asked why people order would from so far away, he answered, “because we use top-of-the-line meats and ingredients, and people can tell the difference.” Grocery aisles offer imported items that are difficult to find elsewhere, including a variety of aged balsamics, specialty olive oils and imported cookies. You can’t go wrong with Poeta’s; it’s always top notch!

122 Highwood Avenue
Highwood, Illinois 60040
Hours: Tue.-Fri., 9-5; Sat, 9-4; Sun.-Mon., closed


Patricia Galli and her mother, Elsa, born in Emilia Romagna, have been serving up fine Northern Italian cuisine to the North Shore since 1977. Specializing in carryout as well as catering, and using only the finest ingredients, Pastificio! brings gourmet Italian into homes in easy-to-warm containers. Their wide variety of first- and second-course specialties are enticingly unique. All their items are homemade, from soups, to pastas and sauces, to entrees. And there are a wide variety of desserts to choose from. Call for Saturday’s hot menu offerings. The filled pastas, specialty sauces and lasagna are to die for!

About Elisabetta (Liz) Hawari

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