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Youth Served at Balestri Sopressata Contest

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Sep 26, 2011 4:15PM

Anthony may have been impressed with all the improvements at Chicago Gourmet this past weekend, but the most accessible tasting event of the weekend was in a union banquet hall in suburban Countryside with Frank Balestri's fifth annual sopressata contest.

Balestri, a Chicago cop, seemed as shocked as the attendees at how the festival has grown in a short time from a small group of people in a bar to an event with an attendance of almost 700 people who are almost as obsessed with the tradition of making their own versions of Calabrian salami as Balestri. "I'm proud to say my sons are now making their own 'sod' and the tradition has been passed down," Balestri said during a speech before the judging of 53 entries of homemade "supersod." (I was one of the judges for yesterday's event, in the interest of disclosure.)

What was surprising when the winners were announced was the number of entries that came from younger people. It wasn't just Balestri's sons that were keeping the tradition alive. The first place entry belonged to Kelly Day, who's as much Italian as Balestri is Irish. Day's sod was one of my favorites of the evening, with a great red color, amazing texture, prominent spice and a creeper heat in the back of the throat that announced its presence long after I finished sampling.

Day learned to make sopressata from her Calabrian mother-in-law, Theresa Riccelli. It goes to reminds us that, if you're going to learn wisdom, learn from a direct source.