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Caputo's on Harlem v. Fox & Obel's Italian

We appreciate and like a lot of what F&O has brought to the city but we were inspired to go to Caputo's when shortly after a dicussion here re "where's the best place for Prosciutto" we found ourselves at an event in Oak Park.

On the treck home we dediced to do a bit of shopping at Caputo's and what a trip (though incovenient). The title suggests a comparison but they aren't competing with one another, they are doing completely different things.

The first experience walking in after somewhat difficult parking was a 40 ish Italian woman shopping for produce and singing along to the Italian music that was piped in overhead. This is not Fox & Obel. The produce was extensive Italian with many varieties of fresh egg plant and other fresh vegetables true to the cuisine. Chicago in winter so not the best time of the year for the produce. Interesting that they are also addressing the hispanic market which is significant in and around the store...in the produce section and throughout the store.

The deli and meat section were ridiculous. Came home with their fresh Italian sausage, among other items, and it was very good. Great variety of dried and fresh cold cuts and meats (a few prosciuttos and dried hams) and great selection. Bought a huge wedge of Parmagiana Reggiano...$4 a pound less at Caputos than where I buy on the north side.

The pasta aisle is heaven on earth. You got a sauce, they've got ten options. Some whole wheat options as well (which I'm not crazy about). Kids were restocking the olive oil as fast as people were taking it off the shelves, great selection at every price point.

A gal asked if we were finding everything and I asked where the pre made pizza dough is. I was looking for the flats that we sometimes buy that you can sauce, add cheese and bake. I went where she sent me and found two options of frozen balls of pizza dough.

Our basket looked like we had just ended a fast.

Caputo's is a fabulous experience and offers more Italian selections than you can find in the city. Not easy to get to, but a wonderful, authentic experience. A stock up a couple of times a year place. Real people shop there.

Fox & Obel is grand. Caputo's is real. They're different

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  1. I agree completely. The recent discussion on this Board also inspired me to go there. Produce was gorgeous and extraordinarily reasonably priced -- asparagus for 99 cents/ lb & red leaf lettuce for $1.49/lb. The ethnic diversity of the customers made one feel that this is a true Chicago neighborhood experience; not only did I overhear Italian, but also Spanish & Polish. I'll go back too, even though the parking is a challenge.

    1. Caputo's is awesome. There are other locations as well (in the suburbs, though).

      1. I'm fortunate enough to live about a mile away from the Addison Caputo's, and only a couple away from the one in Bloomingdale. I'm pretty sure that our store is bigger than the one on Harlem, and it is a wonderland of produce, italian specialties and interesting foods of all kinds. From my experience, I would recommend that anyone try their garlic sausage, their homemade bocconcini, the homemade seafood salad (great on a green salad) and the tiramisu in the bakery. Bless them for such a great variety and prices fair enough to actually be able to eat well!!

        1. Hi all,

          I have the Naperville Caputo's near me and love the cannoli's there :P The produce aisle is also quite nice. But one of my favorite things are the many import items here.

          I don't think all that much of the meat and seafood, as it's been quite poor looking and nothing special the times that I've tried it.

          BUT...the import stuff is great! San Marzano tomato's, the pasta choices, some nice balsamics (although you still have to watch for the brands that are all hype and price) and oils too.

          Overall...I rate it very good for imports, price, produce and a so-so selection on cheeses.

          take care,
          dan

          1. Thanks for all this info. I'm hosting an Italian wine tasting gathering soon and was wondering which Italian grocery to try for the appetizers.

            2 Replies
            1. re: sheilamarie

              I live in downtown Chicago, a few blocks from Fox and Obel. They sell high-quality food, at insane prices. A few times each year, I battle traffic to Caputo's, to load up on pasta, olive oil, and all things Italian.

              I have tried a broad selection of pastas, olive oils, sauces, deli items, and things Italian both fresh and canned, from Caputo's, and was pleased every time. I especially enjoy the freshly baked focaccia they always have. Also, their cheeses are wonderful, and if you ask, they will always cut a piece of Reggiano Parmesan from the wheel. They have plenty of pre-packaged cheese pieces sitting there for sale, but they offer the buyer better alternatives.

              Others may disagree, but I have found some of the employees at Fox and Obel to be surly. My trips there are few and far between, and take place only when time doesn't permit going elsewhere.

              1. re: Greg in Chicago

                I enjoy shopping at Fox and Obel, and have found the employees there to be consistently helpful and friendly. Sure, the prices are more than other places, but the quality is always the very best. I don't buy cheeses or packaged goods there because there are other places that do as well, but there are other categories of foods where their offerings are just *better* than elsewhere - everything from prepared foods (their soups are superb), to baked goods (so are their cinnamon swirl rolls), to fresh fish and meats, and other foods. It's not the place where I buy most of my groceries, but when I'm looking for something that's a higher quality than elsewhere and/or a bit unusual, I've had great success going there.

            2. I am a born and bred Chicagoan and grew up shopping at many of the REAL chicago ethnic deli's, grocers, and butchers like; Caputo's, Riviera, Alpine Subs, Meyers, Isaac & Stein, Conte di Savoia (the orginal one that shared the strip mall with Morris and sons on Roosevelt), what was the name of the gourmet store on Clark street at Fullerton from 15-20 years ago? , Cermak Produce, the Haymarket wholesale district, and countless others. The fact that nearly all of the employees at many of these incredible stores did not speak English only added to the AUTHENTIC experience. Additionally, I grew up with a Greek grocer/butcher owner on one side and a German grocer/butcher owner on the other so I guess that's where it all started for me. These ethnic stores are a way of life for me. Food shopping for me may take me to 2-6 ethnic stores on a Saturday morning all over the Chicagoland area...fun fun!

              No offense to Fox and Obel or maybe Whole Foods, but I only shop there as an absolute last resort.

              5 Replies
              1. re: amoncada

                And many of the ethnic markets in Chicago and suburbs - and there are dozens of them - generally have prices lower than Jewel or Whole Foods.

                1. re: jlawrence01

                  Yeah, it's amazing to see how much of an upcharge Fox & Obel, Whole Foods, Jewel, and Dominicks, etc, have when comparing them to the ethnic stores.
                  I don't know how Riviera on Harlem in Elmwood Park can survive with such prices OMG so cheap!! I really like the DeNigris balsamic vinegar there for $2.75ish, yeah can you believe it?!

                  1. re: amoncada

                    My local market in Crystal Lake offers the "same" prices for deli items as the local Jewel ... I get a pound at the local store versus a half pound at Jewel.

                    When I see what some of the smaller markets charge ... you gotta ask why the super chains are not a lot more profitable.

                    1. re: jlawrence01

                      I"m sure that the volume discount for the major stores is substantial. I wonder if it's enough though considering all the great benefits and competitive wages that they pay the tens of thousands of employees, etc.

                      1. re: amoncada

                        Do realize that they are also being paid substantial amounts by the manufacturing for the shelf space.

                        Actually, the delta between pay and benefits between the independents and the "Big Three" have been shrinking for years, especially with a lot of the recent bargaining agreements in large markets like SoCal.

              2. I really like Caputo's for produce, deli meats(their deli is top notch,not just one or two brands of italian meats, but 5 or 6 or more), pastas, bread, and olive oils, giardinara, and other specialty items. I do not really have a use for Fox & Obel, I have found their staff not really knowledgebale, friendly, or helpfull, on my couple of visits there, but then I am comparing them to the Caputo's staff which are top notch in each of those categories.

                Ill stick with Caputo's, and leave Fox & Obel to their followers.

                1 Reply
                1. re: swsidejim

                  Caputos is the place for stocking up on deli and import items, even their fresh seafood is great. Monkfish for $7 a pound!

                  I'll still go to Whole Foods and F&O for certain items I can't find elsewhere, and get raped. But, I'm finding less and less I need there.

                2. I am very lucky to have a Caputo's in Palatine. The parking lot is always jammed. The selection of foods is amazing. I agree that the meat isn't the best feature. I always go to Dorfler's meat market (83 and Arlington Hts Rd) for that. While I enjoy cruising through F&O, you can't beat the prices here.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: donnacrocker

                    Was at the Joseph Caputo's in Algonquin tonight. They may not have the best selection of meats, BUT the ground beef and other meats were about 0.75 cheaper and a lot better looking than the three supermarkets I went to last night.