The Greatest Condiment in All the Land

family giardiniara packTwo of the greatest things I ever got out of any relationship came from my marriage: an introduction to honest-to-God, Italian-American "gravy", as my former in-laws called it, (or "red lead" as Tony Soprano calls it) and to the Chicago-style giardinera that goes so perfectly with it. For the uninitiated, giardinera (pronounced "jar'-din-AIR" if you're from Chicago) is basically chopped vegetables and spices either marinated in oil or picked in vinegar.

The former, especially when packed with the exact jalepeno-to-celery ratio to achieve the proper level of fiery goodness, perfectly complements the dense, musky flavor of a long-simmered gravy and creates instantaneously and out of nowhere a weird, cocaine-like addictive grip on the unsuspecting diner that never really goes away.

The latter is overly crunchy, usually filled with weird, inappropriate vegetables like carrots and cauliflower and, as far as I'm concerned, is ass. Ah, well. Chacon à son gout.

I've looked and looked, but I've never found REAL giardinera anywhere outside of Chicago. Certainly not in L.A., which is not exactly renowned for its Little Italy. (Oh, wait, we don't have a Little Italy.) And I was so plumb frozen on my last trip back there that I plumb forgot to check the overpriced grocery store near my hotel to see it they stocked it.

Fortunately, my other ex-Chicago ex-partner who now lives in L.A. was still there. I put out a giardinera alert, and he graciously purchased (and had his aunt ship) FOUR, count 'em, FOUR bottles of Dell'Alpe. They arrived today, mostly intact, and I immediately jumped online to tell all 12 of you about it.

Of course, in my search for an image to upload along with it, I found the online order form at the Dell'Alpe website. For nine bucks, I can get three bottles shipped to me any time the jones strikes. Which really does make me happy...when it's not making me feel like an idiot.

xxx c