Ethnic Markets: L’Appetito

By Lisa Shames in Food on Apr 3, 2007 3:00PM

We know what you’re thinking: “Aren’t the best ethnic markets located in, well, ethnic neighborhoods?” Why, yes, astute reader, for the most part they are. But sometimes, like that ever-elusive bluebird of happiness, you can find them right in your own backyard.

Case in point: L’Appetito, an Italian deli and café with two locations in the Gold Coast. Yeah, yeah, there you go again: Yes, we, like you, normally avoid shopping in the Gold Coast — they don’t call it “gold” for nothing — but we were pleasantly surprised when we stumbled into this tiny spot in search of some good and reasonably priced grub during the workweek, and we think you’ll be, too.

2007_04_lappetito.JPGFirst off, this isn’t just some new kid on the block trying to cash in on the big bucks in the hood (but with more high-rise luxury condos than you can shake a doorman at, we wouldn’t blame them if that was the case). When the original L’Appetito on Huron Street opened back on Columbus Day in 1981, it was actually quite a daring move for an Italian deli to venture out of the Italian neighborhood. The venture paid off, and they followed up with another location on the bottom floor of the Hancock Building in 1995. Then, there’s the family behind it. Couple Anthony and Christine Spatara are both Italian born — he in Sicily and she in Calabria — and their two children, Anthony and Licia, help run the stores (feel better now?).

We’re big fans of the fresh frozen pastas made for L’Appetito by a local producer. The one-pound bags supposedly feed three people, but with yummy offerings such as jumbo ravioli with butternut squash, agnolotti with chicken and tri-color tortellini with cheese, we think it’s more like two. Don’t forget to grab one of their frozen sauces (we spied marinara, puttanesca, meat and tomato the day we were in). The refrigerated case has a nice selection of imported and domestic cheeses, meats, sodas — who knew Tab was Italian? — and packaged salads to go. The colorful bags of Italian cookies and crackers are intriguing. We love the flaky Taralli Classici olive oil biscuits from Fiore di Puglia, even more so that we have no idea how many calories or fat they have since the nutritional information is in grams. Round out an impromptu meal with some jarred pickled vegetables, and the authentic Italian desserts — think biscotti, cannoli, tiramisu, tortes and gelato— make for a sweet finish.

L’Appetito is also a great place to grab a sandwich, most of which hover around the $5-6 range. The Rosina, a grilled sandwich with prosciutto, cotto, roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella is one of our favorites. And we’re not the only ones: L’Appetito goes through a 20-pound leg of prosiutto every day, we were told. There are five Italian-style submarine sammies, with hot or mild giadiniera at no extra charge. Veg-heads will appreciate the Verdure Arosite, which features arugula, roasted red peppers, roasted eggplant and herbed goat cheese on rustic Italian bread. Next time, we’ll save room for the big-as-a-baseball Sicilian rice croquettes and an espresso made with Illy coffee. Now that’s Italian.

L’Appetito is located at 30 E. Huron St., 312-787-9881, and 857 N. Michigan Ave., 312-337-0691.