The following is one of the first blog posts I wrote for Oakpark.com, and it's about my favorite food festival in the area...which is happening next weekend, September 2-4, in Melrose Park.
Taste of Chicago, Chicago Gourmet, and the Green City BBQ are some of the celebrations of food we’ve enjoyed last summer. My favorite food festival, however, and one you probably don’t know about, is held in Melrose Park every Labor Day weekend.
Taste of Melrose Park is a gathering of 70 or so vendors, over 65 of which are not representing brick-and-mortar restaurants. Rather, the great majority of vendors at Taste of Melrose Park are just families who come together every year to serve dishes that are part of their heritage. Every dish is priced no more than $3 (many only $2). For a little money you can savor lot of good tastes…and see a lot of local color.
At the Taste of Melrose Park, you’ll meet neighborhood people like Corinne Principe, who prepares a very popular artichoke casserole; when she’s combining the ingredients, she always wears her mother’s old smock “so that it’s like my mom is always with me when I’m making her recipe.” The Ianelli family works together to hand-make the freshest, flakiest panzerotti you’ve ever had. Joe Rosa, son of the famous restaurateur Slicker Sam, has many stories about the glory days of his father’s restaurant, when Frank Sinatra would visit and his mom would make special dishes with no garlic (because, I’m guessing, it interfered with after-dinner romancing). Siciliano’s Fried Bologna stand prepares a simple, disturbingly delicious version of this simple sandwich: just the meat, spongy white bread, mustard and grilled onions.
There are lots of characters at Taste of Melrose Park, and you can see more about the people and the food in a video produced by my friend Mike Gebert for his video blog, SkyFullofBacon.com.