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J.P. Graziano Celebrates 75 Years Of Italian Goodness By Giving Some Away

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jun 6, 2012 7:00PM


J.P. Graziano Grocery Co. is one of those rare businesses that has managed to preserve its heritage and original feeling while still growing into the 21st century. Celebrating its 75th anniversary tomorrow, J.P. Graziano is a 4th-generation family business best known to Chicago eaters for its wonderful sandwiches. To celebrate the anniversary, Graziano will be giving away free classic cannoli all day Thursday.

In addition to the cannoli, the store has been giving away free sandwich cards and raffle tickets for weeks. If you're lucky, you might still be able to get one, and be entered to win a $75 gift basket of Italian goodies.

Jim Graziano, the current proprietor, is proud of his family's heritage. "I still bring in Parmigiano Reggiano from the person my great-grandpa started bringing it in from," he told us. "I'm 31 and my dad started taking me here when I was 9." Despite the shop's famed sandwiches, Graziano wants everyone to remember that they started as a grocery and are still a grocery.

"We’ve been an Italian speciality grocery for 75 years — we’ve only sold sandwiches for five years. We just happen to sell sandwiches!" Graziano's wonderful selections of premium cheese, pasta, tomatoes and other speciality italian products sit beside some wonderful bargains. Some visitors don't realize Graziano sells bulk spices at wonderful prices. Plus, they use up full barrels of spices every two weeks, so you know the products are fresh.

Graziano started up the sandwich program while his father was still alive. "I saw an opportunity. There wasn't a lot of foot traffic because people didn't think we sold to the public. I was looking for a way to get people to see that you can walk in the store." He asked his father for permission to start the program. "Dad looked at my over his glasses and said 'if you want to do that, fine, but this is your baby. Everything is on you.' I don't know if he said that to discourage me, but I ran with it."

At first, it'd be a big week if Graziano sold 40 sandwiches. Then, a customer who worked at the Board of Trade came in and ordered 60 sandwiches - a week's sales in 45 minutes. "Salami was flying everywhere; we had no idea what we were doing." Now there's a line out the door every day.

Graziano isn't stopping. There might be expansion plans in his future (we can't reveal more) and he hopes to pass on the business. He and his wife have a child coming in the fall, and he's already thinking about passing on the store to a 5th generation.

J.P. Graziano Grocery Co. is located at 901 W. Randolph.