Every so often, there’s an evening where on the train ride home after dinner out, you sigh in contented bliss and say “this is why I live in Chicago.” We have a food-centric city with every kind of cuisine you can think of, and great chefs who not only care about food, but care how that food is grown and raised. It’s a privilege to live here.
Recently, my friend Jessi invited me to join her at an artisanal salami tasting at Disotto Enoteca along with a few other local Chicago food bloggers. Food blogging is both a solitary and social thing, so I’ll always leap at the chance to meet other bloggers who love food as much as I do. Walking in, I thought it would be a fun night of conversation and food. It was so much more.
First, Disotto Enoteca is the kind of bar where I wish I could afford to be a regular. Tucked beneath Francesca’s on Chestnut, the first word that comes to mind is cozy. You descend the basement stairs to a room lit by candles and soft sconces with warm stone-lined walls, boasting only 10 small tables and two wine bars. You glance in the corner to see a closet of glorious charcuterie on display behind a wall of glass…I’m sure that glass is a necessary protection to keep it safe from foodies like me.
But this night of food was amazing. Christiano Creminelli, the salami artisan himself, was in the house slicing and serving thin wisps of his incredible meats to all in attendance. Servers were circulating the room pressing beautiful glasses of wine into every hand – I certainly did not resist. Heaven. The cares of the day dropped away as I picked up the camera and tried to capture just a smidge of this wondrous evening, though the ambient lighting was working against me.
One by one, our table of food bloggers filled, and after introductions and excited exclamations about the incredible salamis, Christiano sat down with us. For over an hour, Christiano held court to a rapt table of foodies captivated by his passion for his work. I could listen to Christiano tell stories of his childhood, family and craft for far longer than a single evening.
The Creminelli family has been making handcrafted meats in Italy for over 300 years…that’s a level of knowledge and family pride that we just can’t touch here in the United States. The Creminelli family has passed down their craft generation to generation, and Christiano began his study in the family business at age four. How do you not love a man who finds his life’s work at so young an age?!
When Christiano came to the US in 2006 to bring his family’s art to America, he knew the process was not to be rushed. It took him a year of travel to find a location with just the right climate for salami – Salt Lake City, Utah…but that was just the beginning of his journey to the salamis we tasted. It took him another year traveling the country to find the right farmers to raise the pigs he needed…farmers who raise only a handful of pigs on pastured lands and whose stock live good, piggy lives. Christiano had my heart at humanely, sustainably raised meat – something I’m definitely passionate about.
This Spring, Christiano is launching 12 new meats across the country – we tasted them all, and I can vouch for every single one. I’m a sucker for the classic sopressata – laden with garlic, pepper and red wine, and Creminelli’s is the best I’ve ever tasted. But the winner of the evening for me was a total surprise. The mortadella stole my heart, and I just hope I’ll be able to find it in stores soon. Mortadella is a softer, more lush meat, and Christiano’s has subtle notes of rosemary, sage and juniper – wow.
I think all of us at the table left in a buzzed haze from an evening of good food, wine and the shared passion for well-crafted meats. If you love salami, I sure hope you’ll try and find Creminelli in a gourmet shop near you.
After the tasting, I had to get my hands on some Creminelli to share with my salami-coveting husband. I’ve made gluten-free pizza with wild boar sausage, and a simple pasta with oven dried roma tomatoes and salami…I think nearly any dish would benefit from a few thin slices of Creminelli.
A simple pasta with oven-dried roma tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and parmesan made extravagant with slivers of Creminelli sopressata.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy salami or cured meats? Share your faves in the comments below…