Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

 

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs ReviewMy Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review – they are pre-cooked and run about $6 for 28.  That’s very competitive pricing.

They are pretty flavorful for a mass-market product.  Maybe Johnsonville could come up with a “sweet” and “hot” version like Italian sausage?  I heated them in my own sauce and served over pasta.  They are a finer grind and denser than ones I make at home.  (Recipe).

Ingredients are straightforwards,  pork, water, bread crumbs (bleached wheat flour, yeast, sugar, salt) and less than 2% of all those usual things that we have no idea what they are. Usually, mostly salt derivatives.   Happy there are no “corn syrup solids” in these guys.

This product is not in a resealable bag if that’s a consideration for your purchasing power.

Johnsonville’s balls come in a variety of styles in addition to Classic Italian, you’ll find “Homestyle,” and “Cheese Italian Style.”

You can quickly bring the balls to serving temp on the stovetop, oven, or microwave, in most cases, less than twenty minutes, shorter if thawed.

These are manufactured for Johnsonville by a Chicago based value-added protein processor OSI Industries, one of the largest privately held companies in the United States.   They boast 65 facilities and over 20,000 employees in 18 countries. They started in 1909 founded by Otto Kolschowsky as a family-owned meat market and butcher shop in the Chicago area as Otto & Sons, USA.  In 1955, they were named the first fresh beef supplier to McDonalds. They are also one of the co-manufacturers for Impossible Foods plant-based protein items.

To find a local outlet that stocks Johnsonville balls, use the company’s product locator.

I’d buy them again.

Inside the ball

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

 

 

 

 

 

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review

 

My Johnsonville Italian Meatballs Review – they are pre-cooked and run about $6 for 28.  That’s very competitive pricing.

They are pretty flavorful for a mass-market product.  Maybe Johnsonville could come up with a “sweet” and “hot” version like Italian sausage?  I heated them in my own sauce and served over pasta.  They are a finer grind and denser than ones I make at home.  (Recipe).

Ingredients are straightforwards,  pork, water, bread crumbs (bleached wheat flour, yeast, sugar, salt) and less than 2% of all those usual things that we have no idea what they are. Usually, mostly salt derivatives.   Happy there are no “corn syrup solids” in these guys.

This product is not in a resealable bag if that’s a consideration for your purchasing power.

Johnsonville’s balls come in a variety of styles in addition to Classic Italian, you’ll find “Homestyle,” and “Cheese Italian Style.”

You can quickly bring the balls to serving temp on the stovetop, oven, or microwave, in most cases, less than twenty minutes, shorter if thawed.

To find a local outlet that stocks the balls, use the company’s product locator.

Inside the ball

The Original Nottoli & Son Review Chicago

The Original Nottoli & Son Review Chicago

The Original Nottoli & Son Review Chicago

The area around Harlem Avenue, just south of Interstate 90, about twenty miles NW of downtown Chicago, has truly become the area’s new “Little Italy.” There are literally dozens of Italian-centric delis, markets, bakeries and restaurants.

I’ve looked at a couple of them before, including another deli named “Nottoli” (no relation I am told), a restaurant/pizza called “Dino’s,” (superb pizza), and a market and take out operation, “Rex.”

This particular Nottoli I became aware of due to shouting on the internet saying it was absolutely the best, and also being featured on a local tv program called “Chicago’s Best.” (Irony)

My goodies from Nottoli?  An Italian Beef Combo sandwich (combo means with a sausage nestled in the beef), an entree of sausage and peppers, some repacked Cerignola olives, several pounds of fresh Italian sausage for the freezer) a loaf of bread and a pound of meatballs.

The Italian beef was one of the best I have had anywhere, ever. It came “baptized” (completely dipped in au jus) so it was quite messy, but isn’t messy food the most bigly funniest?  The olives were a real disappointment, as the giant Cerignola red olives should be very firm and bursting with woodsy flavor (I cure olives at home, so like the insurance company ad says “I know a thing or two.”)  These were lifeless and mushy.  I suspect this happens when a quantity is taken from a vat of intense brine and they are repacked in smaller containers in a water bath. Just no.

Meatballs were fine, good flavor, good texture, but I prefer the ones at Rex, they have a much more intense flavor of fennel and garlic.  Bread? Superb. Sausage and peppers?  Same great sausage as in the Italian beef, so no complaints there.

If you love Italian food, take an afternoon and plot a course for this neighborhood, have a pizza, buy some treats at the Sicilia Bakery (which I will write about in a bit), and then hit one or more markets. The markets also stock dry and canned goods imported from Italy. The other Nottoli has the largest selection in that realm.

The Original Nottoli & Son Review Chicago

Meatballs and bread

 

The Original Nottoli & Son Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Original Nottoli & Son Review Chicago
The Original Nottoli & Son Review Chicago

Vollwerths Blood Sausage Review

Vollwerths Blood Sausage Review

Vollwerths Blood Sausage Review

Blood sausage is made all over the world with varying protein ingredients, including pork, beef, goat and other meats.  The meat is added in different amounts, depending on the region, along with the animals blood and it is allowed to dry or congeal enough to be put into a natural casing.

This version is made by YOOPERS!  Say what?  Yoopers is a nickname for people who live or are from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which if you haven’t been there is kind of a world all its own.  The manufacturer, Vollwerth,  has been cranking these and other ring sausages out since 1915, along with links, ground meat hubs, and several canned meat / sauce products.

The ingredients in this version include: pork snouts, beef blood, pork, calcium reduced dried skim milk, salt, flavorings, dextrose, sodium nitrite. Oink.

As you can see from the pic at the right –>>> the consistency is crumbly, much like (Mexican) chorizo or the Cajun sausage boudin. As such, this isn’t Vollwerths Blood Sausage Reviewon my regular shopping or consuming lists.  I don’t think bursting casings is automatically going to happen, just occurred because of the way I cooked the ring.

It’s really good flavor, granted, I just don’t like the texture of these products.  The filler in boudin is rice.  There used to be a boudin rouge, which had blood in it for color, but that has fallen by the wayside.

I’m using it to supplement the traditional Cajun dish of red beans and rice, which a friend asked me to prepare for their family today, even tho red beans traditionally IS ONLY SERVED ON MONDAYS!

The product locator on the website isn’t operating, but you can buy some of their products online, including sausages and their canned products.

A picture of the factory is below.  It’s in Hancock, Michigan.  You might be familiar with another UP food product, “pasties” which are meat and vegetable-filled pastries that were brought to the area by Cornish miners.

Vollwerths Blood Sausage Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vollwerths Blood Sausage Review

Vollwerths Blood Sausage Review

Dinos Pizza Review – NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

Dinos Pizza Review - NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

Dinos Pizza Review – NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

Dinos Pizza Review - NW Suburban Chicago IllinoisThere still exists a “Little Italy” near downtown Chicago, but there’s not much Italian left to it, ‘cept or a once a year weekend festival. No, for me, Chicago’s “Little Italy” is more likely to be found around Harlem Avenue, south of I-90, in the NW suburbs of Norwood Park, Norridge, and Harwood Heights.

Got to be more pizza joints per square mile than anywhere else in Chicago.  I’m counting 16, and that’s not including the Italian deli/groceries,  of which there are several.

I’ve made the journey to the delis before, notably (reviews) “Nottoli” and “Rex.”  If I was forced to choose one or the other to patronize the rest of my life, it would be a very close call, but “Rex” would win out.  They have fewer groceries than Nottoli, but more hot “to go” meals, and for me, their meatballs are way ahead of Nottoli’s.

All that being said, there are 16 pizza places to check out, and one, in particular, I’ve wanted to hit for a long time.  Officially named “Dino’s Italian Restaurant” I suspect most patrons go for the pizza.  They have been around for over 60 years and that’s always a plus for me.

I ordered to take-out, but the joint was bustling for a post lunchtime Saturday afternoon, and it was one of those places where everyone seems to know each other. (“Hi, Norm!”).

Servers were affable, eager to please, and knew how to do their jobs.

The interior is homey and ‘neighborhood-y.’  Boy, I am making up the words today.

The Pizza

On to the pizza. I fully realize every person has their own preferences for pizza, and in Chicago, we have so many choices. Thick crust, deep dish, stuffed crust, double crust, pan,  sausage crust, no crust, and the one I prefer, a thin crust referred to in many local establishments as “tavern-style.”

Using Italian pastry/pizza flour (many places use regular flour, which for me, doesn’t give a great outcome, the ideal thin crust pizza sports a crust that is cracker-like, but not flakey.

It has some good “chew” to it, and because tavern-style pizza is cut in squares instead of triangular slices, there’s no “hang,” that is, the cheese and toppings aren’t going to slide off your slice when you pick it up.

Dinos Pizza Review - NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

16″ thin crust pizza with sausage

For my taste, Dino’s is perfect.

A medium application of flavorful tomato sauce, not too much, not to skimpy, and it tastes like (surprise!) tomatoes!  Too often pizza joints use sauce that has corn syrup solids as fill, and it becomes ultra-sweet – if it’s your thing, find, it’s just not for me.

Ample cheese, real cheese, again, not the kind blended with fillers.  Nice stretch, great taste, well melted.

Finally, the topping.  I went simple, Italian sausage.  Fantastic.  Hand-pulled chunks of sausage with fennel and garlic, great texture, nice size, not those god-awful preformed sausage pellets so many places use.

I bought the pizza to take home, a 40 minute drive, laid it carefully in the back area of the SUV. Thought I’d just sneak a peek before driving off. Damn, the aroma.  Ok, maybe one slice before I go.

Back in the driver’s seat, slice devoured, “Ok, maybe just one more.”

Managed some self-restraint after that second slice and drove away.  OK, I managed for about ten minutes.  Then another ten minutes.  A stop for a cola. Then another ten minutes.  And by the time I pulled into my driveway, the massive, 16-inch pie I had purchased has shrunk by half.  Oops.

Dino’s Italian Restaurant has a very lengthy menu that includes appetizers,  sandwiches, salads, soups, pasta, chicken dinners, fish, ribs, veal, steak and dessert.  You can see it online here, or there is the pizza page below.

Heck yes I will return. But next time I’ll know well enough to get one for the ride, one for home!

 

Dinos Pizza Review - NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dino's Italian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Dinos Pizza Review – NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

Dinos Pizza Review – NW Suburban Chicago Illinois

Rex Italian Foods Review – Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review – Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, ILCouple of years ago, I was driving down one of the major north/south surface streets in Chicago, Harlem Avenue.  It’s one of the streets chock-a-block full of ethnic eating and grocery establishments, primarily Polish, but more than a couple of old-timey Italian joints.  I stopped at one, Nottoli’s, a few times in the time since that drive, they have a great selection of imported groceries and a delicious meat counter.  Here’s what I wrote about it.

I had heard about, but not visited another joint close by, Rex Italian Foods, which has counter service to eat in or take out, plus a whole host of prepared Italian specialties in bulk to take home.

I went to purchase stuff to take home, but got caught up in the energy of the regulars who were ordering food, so I had to take the plunge.  Modestly dipping my toe in, so to speak, got an order of meatballs, a side of garlic bread, and a San Pellegrino to taste.  Companion went with a Caprese Panini which she raved about.

We then loaded up on a half dozen prepared dishes to tote home, along with a few pounds of Italian sausage, some olives, and olive salad to adorn muffalettas next time I’m feeling ambitious.

I regret not purchasing more, cause it is kind of a hike from me to thee.

The meatballs were delicious, great texture, pork/beef maybe, strong flavor of herbs and fennel.  Just the way I like them, and I’m tough to please, because I make damn fine meatballs at home.  Damn fine.

I will return. I have to.  They stuff their own sausage and cook their home Italian beef.  And have been for the past sixty years or so.

Here’s a quick look inside, courtesy the daughter of the late Chicago Bear’s legend, Walter Payton.

 

Complete menu below, click on pages for better view. Catering available.  Order online for take-out.
Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

 

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review - Norridge, IL

 

 

Rex Italian Foods Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Rex Italian Foods Review – Norridge, IL

Rex Italian Foods Review – Norridge, IL

 

La Pizza Via Review – Fox River Grove, IL

La Pizza Via Review

La Pizza Via Review

Where else can you go that offers nearly every regional type of pizza from across the country??? La Pizza Via has NY/New Haven thin crust, Pan pizza with a thicker crust, baked in a square.

Of course Chicago’s favorite, cracker thin, cut in squares (many people call it “tavern style).” And what I went for, “Detroit style” which is a square pie, a focaccia like crust, caramelized edges, thick but very airy, cheese and toppings over that, then a few ladles of tomato sauce across the top.

I find fault with none of it. It’s a hearty, thick tomato sauce from one of the country’s premier suppliers to pizzerias. Hand pulled chunks of Italian sausage, flavorful, great texture.

Really nice pepperoni, no cupping or charring, and a great cheese blend. (If you want to win me over forever, add thick sliced “Sicilian” (marinated, herbed) green olives!

The shop has an order at the counter arrangement, but an attached dining room. Pastas, calzones, stuffed breads, sandwiches and snacks fill out the menu. Daily specials. Daily slices.

It’s gonna cost you less than Chicago’s regional chains, by 15-20% in my experience.

The Detroit takes about 15 minutes in the oven.  They are open seven days and deliver using some of the third party services.

If you’re from Detroit, this will more than satisfy your cravings, and you won’t have to go home and suffer through your relatives company just to get a slice.

Great product. Nice people. I hope they have great success  Full menu.

La Pizza Via Review

Detroit Style Sausage and Pepperoni

La Pizza Via Review

Properly caramelized crust

 

 

 

La Pizza Via Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
La Pizza Via Review

La Pizza Via Review

Buona Beef Meatballs Review – In Chicago Area Grocers

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Store Packaging

Buona Beef is a local Chicago restaurant chain, started about thirty years ago. They have been on an expansion tear recently, and it seems like they are popping up on a regular basis. As well, they have a few of their products in the grocery stores now. The chain specializes in “Chicago foods,” Italian beef sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, subs. I’ve previously written about having the beef sandwich in one of their restaurants, as well as having the same product from the grocer. Quality stuff.

They own their own manufacturing facility, where they not only make their products, but also do private label business. Not sure if that’s for restaurants or groceries.

I spotted their meatballs in sauce, recently, and picked up a package to take home. It was around $7. The packages are hard frozen, so it’s best (IMHO) to let them thaw completely in the refrigerator before heating (they are pre-cooked).

The package weight is two pounds, and contains eight fairly good sized meatballs and the marinara sauce. I did not weight the individual balls. There own description of the product is: Authentic hand-rolled meatballs, seasoned with garlic, parsley, and Italian spices in a rich Marinara.

The ingredients listed on the package are thus: Marinara with Meatballs (Marinara Sauce {Fresh Vine-Ripened California Tomatoes, Sugar, Sea Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sunflower Oil, Modified Food Starch, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Spices, Natural Flavor, Naturally Derived Citric Acid], Meatballs [Beef, Pork, Water, Romano Cheese (Cultured Cow’s Milk, Enzymes, Salt), Textured Soy Flour, Bread Crumbs (Bleached Wheat Flour, Salt, Dextrose, Yeast), Seasoning (Salt, Dried Garlic, Spice, Dried Parsley, Brown Sugar, Cottonseed Oil, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate, Citric Acid, BHA, BHT), Ricotta Cheese (Whey, Milk, Cream, Vinegar, Salt, Stabilizers), Caramel Color]).

I was quite happy with the meatballs, they have the density, texture that I like, and great flavor. The sauce is good, but leans towards a little too much “sweet” for my personal taste, for red gravy I’m more in the heavy garlic/fennel camp.

My only real “beef” is I yearn for — say — a 24 pack of balls with no sauce. I’d be a regular.  More than regular.  I see their fresh (not frozen) Italian sausage in stores, as well. Haven’t tried it, but will. I go through a lot of Italian sausage in my kitchen, both link and bulk ground.

If you can’t find their products in your grocer, some of them are available for shipping on their website.

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Company marketing photo

 

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Thawed product at my house! 

 

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Size

 

Buona Beef Meatballs Review

Cross section

Buona Beef Meatballs Review
Buona Beef Meatballs Review
Buona Beef Restaurant Review
Buona Beef Italian Beef Review

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage ReviewThe ‘gyro’ is a Greek inspired sandwich, with meat (generally beef and lamb) cooked on a vertical roaster, placed in a pita, dressed with tomato, cucumber, and tatziki sauce.

Some purveyors add lettuce and onion. The word “gyro” is from the Greek word for “circle” or “turn.”

The meat is generally seasoned with salt, hot and sweet paprika, white  and black pepper, dried parsley, garlic powder, and oregano.

First developed by the Turks in the 19th century, and called “Doner Kabab” it took until 1971 for the entree to be popular in the US (primarily Chicago and New York) and til the mid 70s before a select group of companies entered large scale production.

Today, nearly any diner or local fast food place in Chicago will offer you a gyro sandwich or plate (no bread). But as much as Chicago is also a “sausage town” I’ve always been curious as to why someone hasn’t taken gyro seasoned meat and placed it in a natural casing to eat on a hot dog bun.

Inquiries to the largest gyro meat suppliers in Chicago have gone unanswered.

So I’m on one of my wandering trips last week, Southern Wisconsin, pull into the burg of East Troy and discover small processor Hometown Sausage Kitchen.

And darn if they don’t make them (gyro sausages). They run about a quarter pound each, at $9.00 a pound.

Ingredients are ground lamb and pork, water, salt, garlic, spices, red wine veingar powder, lemon juice powder, citric acid in a natural hog casing

I brought some home, par-boiled them, and finished them off on a flat top before slapping them into a substantial Turano roll with the aforementioned condiments.

Hog heaven, so to speak.

The sausage makers have perfectly captured the flavor of gyro meat. The grind is fine and the casing just sturdy enough.  These would be a great addition to any cookout.  This weekend, I will try some as a breakfast sausage, fried and cut on a bias.

Chicago sausage manufacturers are missing a bet not getting into this segment.

Hometown Sausage Kitchen is located just outside of East Troy, WI. Exit off I-43, take a right at the end of the ramp, then a left onto County Road L, and it’s about a mile ahead of you on the left. (picture below). They have a lot of spectacular, high quality processed pork products, and while they are primarily a wholesale operation, they do have retail on site, open Tue thru Sat at 9AM.  They also appear at farmer’s markets in the Chicago area.

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

Packaging

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

Two beauties ready for the flat top

 

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

Not as pretty as I imagined, but unbelievably delicious

building

Processing plant and retail outlet.

 

 

 

 

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

 

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review – Milwaukee, WI

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage ReviewToday I used some of their fresh Italian sausages for a home-made pizza. I only picked up two, of the “hot” not “sweet” variety, and they run about four ounces apiece at about a buck twenty per.

I have this quirk which there is no rhyme nor reason for. When I’m making a sausage pizza, I don’t buy bulk sausage, but links, strip off the casings and use hand-pulled pieces for my topping.

You don’t have to pre-cook it, but you can if you like. It cooks just fine on top of the pie in the regular baking cycle.

So I made my dough, laid on the sauce, some finely diced garlic and sliced cheeses (provolone and mozz – slices melt nicer than shreds, in my opinion).

Then I symmetrically laid out bits of sausage, a sprinkle of Italian herbs, and my personal “go-to” topping, diced green olives with pimentos.

Using fresh dough, it bakes up nicely at 500 for 10-12 minutes.

Glorioso’s hot sausage is a bit hot, it turns out. Most of the time when I select that type of sausage, “hot” means lots of fennel and Italian herbs. But this wasn’t objectional at all, had great flavor, proper about of fat and great texture.

I only bought two as I said.  I should have bought a couple dozen.

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

 

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

Quijote Brand Chorizo

Quijote Brand Chorizo ReviewThere are many varieties of chorizo sausage in the world.  I prefer the Spanish version, which is an ‘eating’ sausage, fermented, dried, smoked, ready for slicing.

It’s made from pork, fat, and a heavy dose of smoky paprika, along with a few other spices. It’s much milder than “Mexican chorizo” which incorporates chili peppers and is removed from the casing before frying in a skillet, being mashed, and taking on the appearance of finely ground beef.

I don’t see the Spanish variety in stores very often, so when I do, I pick it up. Driving across the Deep South last week, I stumbled onto a display of product in a grocery store, made by Elore Enterprises Inc., a Miami company located near MIA and five miles west of Biscayne Bay (pic below).

It’s very smoky and has the requisite firmness.  These particular sausages are about three inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter.  “Fun size” my daughter would say.

If you want a change of pace in a nice, firm, slightly spicy, slicing “salami” – you should give this style a try.

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

 

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

Miami Plant Location

 

 

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

 

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