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D&D: An oasis of italianità in Chicago Heights

A number of months ago, I wrote about ways we can keep our Italian heritage alive. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind was Italian food. To that end, over the years I’ve written about the South Side food markets and delis available to all the former Roseland/Pullman/Kensington residents that are still living south of the city’s downtown.

There’s Calabria Imports, which came out of Blue Island — the Italian pride of Beverly that serves the far southwest side including Oak Lawn and Evergreen Park. Directly south of the city out in Stege /Crete is Dal Santo’s Italian Deli, which came out of Kensington and Calumet City and serves those who moved to Northwest Indiana and further south. However, there was always one mysterious Italian food store that I couldn’t locate.

It was simply my fault because I didn’t remember one of the basic principles of research: get accurate information. I had never made the time to go online and find the exact address of the business. When I did find myself in Chicago Heights, I just meandered through what I thought had been the main shopping area. I had no clue and put the idea of locating the business on the back burner.

Fortunately, my friend Giovanni Aver kidnapped me after Mass one Sunday and helped me jog my memory. And that’s how we ended up at D & D Foods at 1023 S. Halsted St. in Chicago Heights. I was amazed, due to the fact that every last Tuesday of the month, when I attend the Spaghetti-Os meeting, as I head west on US30, I drive right past Halsted Street/Chicago Road. A right turn and five blocks would bring me right to D & D.

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D & D has always been located on Halsted in Chicago Heights. It’s first location was south on Halsted at 12th Street, two blocks from its present location, where it has been for more than 60 years. It is primarily run by Guido Damiani and his mother. However, there are also some of his twelve brothers and sisters, plus nieces and nephews that can be found working at the store, especially on weekends. And, yes, Nonna Damiani still comes in to work at the store.

I spoke to Guido for quite awhile during my second visit. From my first visit, when I met Greg Damiani and he brought out some fresh cooked sausage and cheese, followed by a cup of vino, and then some salami and asiago, I knew I’d have to make an in-person visit. It wasn’t that I hoped for another instant festa, but I have never been so warmly greeted at any other store, deli or market.

As I spoke with Greg, he called one of his regular customers over and that is how I met Roselandite Ron Dantolan, who graduated St. Anthony’s in 1953 and now lives in Glenwood. Ron stops in almost daily and it turns out that my sister Tootsie went to school with Ron.

The Italian community D & D served was primarily made up of the parishioners of St. Rocco’s Italian Catholic Church and St. Agnes Parish. Today’s customers are still residents of Chicago Heights but now there are a large number of south suburban Roselandites, like Ron, who frequent this Italian market. There are many reasons they keep going back to D & D. Among them are the homemade Italian roast beef, sausage, meatballs and Mama Damiani’s special homemade spaghetti sauce. I can personally attest to the great taste of the meatballs and the spaghetti sauce because I warmed them up and enjoyed them two days after my visit.

All in all, great Italian family style customer service, great Italian homemade choices, and a great Italian family make for good reasons to visit D & D Foods. If you are trying to find ways to keep your Italian heritage alive and share it with your family — this is one way to do it. If you have any other suggestions for ways to keep our Italian heritage alive: any information on displays, presentations, films, language groups, or other Italian organizations, please use my contact information to make me aware of the information.

Contact CJ Martello at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; cjfranoi@yahoo.com; or leave message at 773-701-6756; Or visit Roseland Roundtable on Facebook.

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.