Thursday, June 9, 2016

157. J.P. Grazianos

Expectations, order, and dependability are things that I think people need to let go of on vacations. I thought I was a person who could plan tons of things and check them all off a list during my time off. I have since adjusted that philosophy. I think it’s now prudent to schedule one, maybe two things per day on a vacation and not worry about the rest. 

I had one thing scheduled today, my final day in Chicago: a visit to J.P. Grazianos in Chicago. It was recommended to me by a Facebook friend from Chicago. JP’s is an italian grocery in the West Loop of Chicago. I was excited about it because i had only been in a few neighborhoods in the city and I hadn’t wandered off the beaten path very much. It’s been mainly touristy sites, with a few bars added in. 

I said goodbye to Jack this morning and I headed on the blue line south into downtown. The stop was a few blocks away from the marketplace. The placed looked like it was an old meatpacking district (note: look this up.) It was full of restaurants that looked relatively new and aimed at young professionals with more money and a propensity for fancy foods. 

The first thing noticed about JP’s was the sign. It wasn’t fancy and it looked like it had been there since the 60s. It’s a fourth generation store. It was a place that hadn’t updated because it hadn’t needed updating. There was a concrete floor, high ceilings, wooden tables, and a giant deli counter with all sorts of Italian cold cuts. All sorts of stuff that one doesn’t get from a typical grocery store. I ordered the Mr. G, what my friend recommended. 

This sandwich had more than I was used to: sharp provolone, hot sopressatta, prosciutto di parma, volpi genoa salami, truffle marinated balsamic vinaigrette, hot oil, marinated roman style artichokes, fresh basil, lettuce with red wine vinegar, and oregano. I think it’s a good thing when you can’t pronounce the meats on your sandwich. 

I splurged at the end and bought a cannoli. The woman at cash register looked like she was the matriarch of the family. Even though the change on my order came out to 51 cents, she gave me 50 cents back. I appreciated that. 

I saved my sub for later. It was wrapped in thick butcher paper—which is pretty much my favorite thing about sandwiches. I had time to kill before my train left, so I typed in “bookstore” in my phone and it sent me to something called “Open Books”, a used bookstore. I appreciate used bookstores, but some of them are just not great. They’re dusty and you can’t find anything that’s been published in the last 10 years. 

Luckily, this store was different. It was brightly light, and well-decorated. Turns out, it’s a nonprofit bookstore that promotes literacy. Awesome. Also, they had a great selection for a good price. Most of their stuff was about five dollars. I bought David Carr’s “The Night of the Gun” a book that I’ve been wanting to dig into. The clerks were very friendly as well. 

I finally got to Union Station and took out my sandwich. Oh wow. It was spicy, sweet, crunchy, and chewy, all at the same time. I enjoyed the variance from the usual flavors that I get on a sandwich. It took a lot of willpower to only eat half of it. (I ate the other half on the train.) 

I’m glad I found a sandwich and a book for my trip home. Sometimes you just set out on one thing, and other great things can come your way. 

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