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Ethnic Markets: Ricci & Company

By Lisa Shames in Food on May 1, 2007 6:20PM

rsz_rsz_IMG_1287.jpgOK, you got us here: Ricci & Company really isn’t a market per se. Unless you’re a squirrel and this small River North spot specializing in hand-roasted nuts has everything you need for your daily intake and then some. But just because Ricci doesn’t stock edibles from all the food groups — who can keep up with that ever-changing list anyways? — that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of a mention here.

First off, there’s that feel-good feeling you get knowing that this store has been family-owned for four generations. Founded in 1919 by three Italian immigrants — John “Giovanni” Marsalli, Luigi Franceschi and Angelo Ricci — the company still remains in its original location. In the 1950s, Marsalli bought his partners’ shares, but by then the name Ricci was already associated with the freshest and most flavorful nuts — hey, minds out of the gutter, please! — so a name change was out of the question. Walk into the store today, and most likely you’ll find a family member behind the counter.

rsz_rsz_IMG_1276.jpgBut warm-and-fuzzies only go so far. Did we mention that Ricci still does things pretty much the same way they’ve been doing them for almost 90 years? Purchasing high-quality nuts from around the world — filberts from Turkey, Brazils from Peru (who knew?), pine nuts from China, cashews from India, peanuts from Virginia — cooking them in 100 percent peanut oil, and then roasting and salting them by hand. To further enhance the flavor of their nuts, Ricci prepares everything daily, roasting only what they expect to sell. Need proof of their quality? Just ask Garrett Popcorn Shops, Margie’s Candies, Nacional 27, Ben Pao, the Drake Hotel and Alitalia Airlines, all places where you can find Ricci’s nuts.

If you don’t like nuts — yeah, like, whatever — Ricci’s also stocks dried fruit (apricots, cherries, cranberries, banana chips), malt balls, candy corn and gummi bears. We’re big fans of the chocolate-covered treats — our favorite food group — including pretzels, almonds and peanuts, and we expect you will be, too.

Ricci & Company is located at 162 W. Superior St., 312-787-7660,