Situated in a pretty tourist-heavy area, Panozzo's is anything but a tourist trap. This is the real deal - an Italian market with not only all the canned, bottled, and frozen goods you could possibly want, but also a full on deli/restaurant in the back. Shelves are stocked with polenta, pasta, sauces and even a pretty vast selection of gelato and Italian beverages.The service was extremely friendly and we were greated out of the blistering cold with warm smiles and hospitatliy. When deciding what to order, the man behind the counter told us about each specific item in great detail and also offered us some rosemary ham to try. The ham was the best I've ever had. The rosemary flavor was so concentrated and evenly infused that the ham was simply sublime.
After some careful consideration, we settled on two items- the meatball sub and the Pane Ripiene. The meatball hero was just that - a HERO. With four massive meatballs, homemade sauce, fresh melted cheese, and pickled jalapenos all arranged on fresh crusty/soft bread, this sandwich was a force to be reckoned with. Each meatball is approximately the size of a cue ball. Fortunately, I brought my appetite and polished it off pretty handily (and messily). I marvelled in the fact that this sandwich was a mere $6.50. It could easily make two meals for most healthy or sane folks. The quality and flavors far exceeds any other meatball sandwich I've had, and the pickled jalapenos (menu says bell peppers) really were a unique and wonderfully complimentary touch.
The Pane Ripiene was another singular menu item that was unlike anything I'd had before. I would call it a sandwich, but they referred to it as a "stuffed-bread." Essentially, it was very crunchy but slightly sweet bread, hollowed out and stuffed with spicy sausage, cheese, and bell peppers. While I didn't find the sausage to be any spicier than mild renditions of tubed-meat, the stuffed-bread was melded perfection in both the flavor and texture department.
The meal was from Panozzo's was so enjoyable that we hardly felt the frigid cold while feasting on our sandwiches in adjacent Grant Park. This is your Chicago stop for great, cheap sandwiches. Every box is a different variety of gelato.