Italian-style deli offers meat, cheese and gelato

CHICAGO A former bakeshop is now home to meat, cheese and terrific gelato thanks to the owners of Milk and Honey Café in Wicker Park. They set up a satellite shop on Damen to sell baked goods, but transformed it into a tiny deli.

"We kind of wanted to do something a little more fun. I think we both basically wanted to have meat around," said John Manion, Cipollina.

And plenty of it. From imported capicolla to roast beef, which shows up in a hearty sandwich, along with crumbled gorgonzola, pickled red onions and arugula-- topped with a zingy horseradish aioli. The Italian is another beefy option: salami, capicolla, mortadella plus provolone cheese -- topped off with homemade giardiniera, jammed between crusty Italian loaves.

Paninis are also popular here, and the sandwich presses run non-stop. Marinated eggplant and fresh mozzarella are perfect backdrops for caramelized onions and peppery radicchio leaves while the porchetta panini has gone from an occasional special, to a full-time presence on the menu.

"If you've never had it, and you order it, you'll never go back to ham again. It's essentially a pork loin wrapped in the belly, tied, roasted with herbs. It's absolutely delicious."

Piled onto dense bread slathered with a preserved lemon-quince paste, it's paired with fontina cheese and curly frisee greens. Speaking of greens, the only salads here are found in the deli case, made from scratch, and feature a Mediterranean-inspired lineup: tuna with olives.. brussels sprouts with walnuts and thinly-sliced carrots with roasted red peppers. Italian sodas are made the old-fashioned way: some intense syrup, such as ginger or watermelon with fresh herbs… followed by San Pellegrino to make them fizzy. Desserts are another highlight. Either tempting baked goods from Milk & Honey Cafe, or decadently smooth and intense gelatos from Black Dog Gelato. The pistachio and salted peanut were some of the best I've ever had.

Manion says the menu is limited and the space may be small, but they wanted to pack as much flavor into the food as possible.

"We wanted a little Italian deli, we both really, really enjoy meats and cheeses, so we wanted to have some place where we could bring in things that we really liked."

The baked goods still come from Milk & Honey. You can also pick up their famous granola, as well as a few European staples.


1543 N. Damen Ave.


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