This place in a strange location on a stretch of Lake St in a semi up-scale industrial strip mall, if such a thing exists. A few sad used car dealers, a tattoo shop not too far down, a ticket broker, and more than one discrete “massage” shop dot the general vicinity. This slight seedyness in no way is meant as a deterrent to checking out Elena’s shop as the general area of Roselle and Bloomingdale is a fairly well-to-do enclave of the west migrating, suburban Italians.
To the best of my knowledge, Elena is the daughter of Joseph owner of Josephs’ Market on Irving Park between Harlem and Cumberland. My family frequented this gem of a local grocery for quite a while mainly for the excellent butcher, sweets and the foccacias of Elena. It’s been written about both here and on chowmonkey. When still warm, these are loaves that inspire respect in anyone who’s ever done some amateur baking along with lovers of good bread in general. Perfectly browned and crisp with some detectable inner moisture, generously doused with olive oil on the bottom and studded with chunks of baked concentrated tomato along with bits of garlic, basil and salt. Her other standouts include what seems to be either dried or drained ricotta with spinach. Different shapes, sizes and toppings of the foccacias are offered, smaller ones and little lighter in texture and color come three per, larger and flatter and a bit more brown ones are available as well. When we went in on Saturday for lunch there was nice looking free form sausage pizza on the counter top with some brown bubbles on the crust and a thin sheen of sausage grease or olive oil glistening on the top. It was calling out to me, but we got a few sandwiches instead.
This place is fairly new and mainly a catering kitchen and bakery, but they have soups, sauces, potato croquettes, arancini and some desserts and biscotti available. As far as sandwiches it was just kinda like hey what do you have, can you make us a few sandwiches and the response was sure, you want Italian or American? Italian. What do you put on them? Coppocolla, Mortadell, salami, some cheese, lettuce, tomato and some oil and vinegar. You want it toasted a little or cold? Toasted. Can you make a vegetarian sandwich? Sure-eggplant parmigiana ok? Sounds fine.
Verdict. The meat sandwiches were quite good, but nothing to drive a crazy distance for. Nice crispy and light roll similar to a baguette but a little wider and more uniform in shape, fresh lettuce and surprising red tomato and decent quality meat. The eggplant sandwich was an outstanding sample of previously thin sliced and egg battered and fried eggplant in a heated heavily seasoned and concentrated tomato sauce complemented by a thin melted slice of mozzarella. This sangwich was hearty and rich enough to satiate just about the most adamant carnivore.
The breads here and unique and made with care by someone who’s been doing it for quite a while. You know how there’s some things that either your mother or grandmother cook that are standouts and only their touch will make it taste that way? The star of the show at this joint is the foccacia and if you can find a better one, please tell me.
800 W Lake St
Roselle, IL 60172
Josephs Food Mart
8235 West Irving Park Road