A Chicago Culinary Adventure with Bertolli

This past Saturday I was invited along with other Chicago based bloggers to spend the day experiencing authentic Italy in Chicago through the eyes of Bertolli. I was told to prepare my palate for a truly delectable day, and it certainly was!

Our initial meet up was to be at L’Appetito, a cozy Italian deli located on the lower level of the John Hancock building off of Michigan Ave. Our gracious hosts from the Zocalo Group were there to welcome us all. L’ Appetito was the first authentic Italian deli on the gold coast and still remains twenty four years later.

The weather was beautiful and the deli was bustling with people inside and out enjoying all their favorite Italian eats like gelato, cappuccino, espresso, fresh baked pastries, cookies, sandwiches, subs and much more!

As we dipped our biscotti and savored each bite of authentic Italian cookies we enjoyed hearing how this family business got started and how much it has evolved through out the years.

You could imagine our excitement when these beauties were brought to our table, Affogato, a classic Italian dessert consisting of creamy vanilla gelato being “drowned” in warm espresso, a match made in heaven! If you haven’t tried Affogato yet, you must! It’s the perfect summertime dessert! I was so impressed with their gelato, very authentic taste and texture and their exclusive use of Illy brand coffee. Check out a previous post I did on Affogato here.

Our next stop was at Chicago French Market to visit Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine. Waiting for us was an Italian cheese tasting, custom made especially for our event.
Our taste buds were heightened as we sampled, ***Montasio Vino Rosso, a cows milk cheese covered with Cabernet and Merlot. *** Podda*** Taleggio*** a wonderful Gorgonzola DOP Piccante, somewhat spicy, loved it! and the king of all cheeses, *** Parmigiano Reggiano.

After the tasting we had time to walk around the French Market which is actually a year-round indoor marketplace filled with local artisans and purveyors.

Next stop on our journey was to Old Town Oil, located on Wells St. where we had the opportunity to taste specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world.

Each one unique in it’s own special way, grassy, fruity, spicy, full bodied. Tasting olive oil is similar to a wine tasting. I especially loved their Tuscan Herb, I pictured it drizzled over grilled vegetables, it has a wonderful infused herby flavor!

It was fun sampling all the balsamic vinegars, aged, white and specialty, Some of my favorite flavors were, fig, tangerine, pomegranate, raspberry, honey and ginger, Sicilian lemon, white peach and jalapeno. I never knew there were so many different flavored vinegars!

We still a little time left before dinner so we all walked over to The Spice House, where I was introduced to my new favorite ingredient, tomato powder. Rich tasting and very tomato-ey I can’t wait to add it into pasta dough.

The last stop on our journey was dinner at Coco Pazzo, on Hubbard St. Coco Pazzo was the first Chicago restaurant to focus solely on the Tuscan region of Italy. The minute you walk in you’re welcomed by the beautiful loft style setting.

But my focus was all on the antipasto table which caught my eye immediately, a colorful display of all my favorite vegetables, meats and cheeses, all cooked to perfection!

Owner, Jack Weiss graciously spent time at our table welcoming us and telling us his story of how Coco Pazzo came to be. Manager Roberto explained the type of wine we would be having with each course from their award winning all Italian wine list, and the talented Executive Chef, Chris Macchia explained the custom pasta menu he created for us.

We started out our meal with amazing antipasto platters along with slices of warm homemade foccacia bread, I would have been happy stopping right there!

Then came the pasta, Mezzelune Gorgonzola, handmade half moon pasta, gorgonzolla filled, asparagus sauce. Tagliolini Neri, black squid ink pasta, rock shrimp, zucchini, tomato, chilles and basil. Pappadelle al Coniglio, homemade wide flat noodles, braised rabbit, white wine, aromatic vegetables, thyme.

I never had rabbit before so I was a little hesitant, but it looked so good I just went for it, and guess what? I loved it!

We finished our meal with a sampling of four different desserts, each one better than the other and a hot steamy cup of espresso!

A big thanks for all the goodies we got to take home throughout the day, and a giant thanks to all the Zucalo gals that took such good care of us, and of course, Bertolli!

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  1. I am salivating over all the wonderful food, particularly the antipasto. What a fabulous day. I generally use Colavito olive oil, though it’s more expensive than Bertolli. Have you used Bertolli?

  2. Wow…wish I could of attended this event. My mouth is watering from all the great looking dishes. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I’m taking notes for my next visit ti ChicagO, Marie! This looks like it was an amazing day of culinary delights and top notch Italain products!

    I told you rabbit is tasty ..lol..we have it often. There is even a restaurant post on my blog right now that features a rabbit entree πŸ™‚

    I love both Bertolli and the Zucalo Group! Caludia and I did the whirlwind culinary food tour of LA with other bloggers through them. I can only hope they do a tour like this in NYC and invite me! πŸ™‚

  4. What a great opportunity for you, Marie. I can’t wait to see the posts that will come out of this.

  5. What a positively delicious day! So many delicious things and I simply have to try affogato – YUM! I love Bertolli products too, thanks for sharing:)

  6. What a treat! I must say the Afficato had me sitting on the edge of my seat and will try it today, winter or not!!

  7. Wow Marie – What a day of feasting you had. I would have been loosening my belt after the first half hour. You really got a culinary tour of Italy. What fun. I’m glad you enjoyed the rabbit. It’s a favorite over polenta in the wintertime. We have an Amish market near us that sells it year-round. And affogato is in my future – my near future.

  8. You really do fun things! What a great tour. Everything sounds delicious!

  9. Sounds like you had a blast! I’m going to look a few of these places up when I’m in town in July.

  10. What a great way to spend the day – this is a serious blogger get together.

  11. What a fun day we had. I think we need to revisit again and take more time! LOL

  12. I could live on those antipasto platters – my favorite way to eat. Delicious nibbles of – everything. I think I’d like to wake up to Affogato every morning. And the tomato powder is now my “must find.” Cheers to Bertolli and the Zocalo Group for such a scrumptious outing.

  13. We are all green with envy! Thsi is the kind of day we would all love to have!

  14. JEALOUS! Looks like you have a fabulous time! I love the shot through the wine glass πŸ™‚

  15. wow wow, what a great time you had. I am pretty jealous, that cheese…oh my!

  16. What a wonderful day. one would think with all of the trips to Chicago I’ve done over the years that I might have discovered some of these places. Sigh I do LOVE the spice house though and always bring home some new treat from there whenever I visit.

  17. What a fabulous foodie day! I love bertolli pasta sauces but they seem to be discontinuing them in the UK… they’re so fresh and yum!

  18. Love your blog! I have a blog that was inspired by you!
    http://www.myfoodsimplynaked.blogspot.com. Although I do not cook nearly as much Italian food as you, I love
    to cook and my husband and I are true “foodies.”
    He also is a great cook. We are going to be in Chicago on business Jul 13-15. I am traveling with him on his business trip, kind of as a butler since he is temporarily on crutches. I hope to have a true foodie experience and will be guided by some of your culinary adventures.
    Maybe we could meet sometime. I think we have a lot in common. I also am a grand mom, mother-n-law and dog mom! Thanks for all of your inspiration!

  19. Great photos! What a fun event!

  20. What an awesome event! I love L’appetito

  21. What a wonderful day, Marie. I’ve added several must see places to my Chicago list. The French Market will be our first stop.

  22. Italian food never fails to satisfy my taste buds. It’s really sumptuous.

  23. Fun, Fun, Fun!!! Your photography is spectacular Marie!!!

    Waving from Montana to Chicago!!!

  24. Hi Marie – Lucky you guys. Sounds like a great day.
    Loving the sound of that tomato powder too.