Melrose Park may not conjure images of culinary excellence, but the Taste of Melrose Park, coming up on September 3, 4, and 5, is one of the finest unsung food events in the Chicagoland area. You may not know it yet, but you want to go there. For almost 30 years, the Taste of Melrose Park has been serving food that comes not from restaurants but from people’s homes. With no item priced over $3.00 (though it’s a fifty percent increase over last year’s two-buck limit), go crazy trying dishes named for the households that prepared the item: Louis Ariola’s Artichoke Salad, Cervone’s Homemade Cannoli, and our favorite, Siciliano’s Old Fashioned Fried Bologna.
Manning the bologna griddle is Don Siciliano, who gets misty remembering the dish’s history. “We had fried Bologna sandwiches in the morning times, on the weekend, before a Cubs game,” he remembers. “I’d be having a snack, when I got home from work, my uncle would make a fried Bologna sandwich, and we’d sit there and share one, and that’s how this all started.” Don’t be surprised by the number of cops surrounding Siciliano’s spot — it’s not because they’re expecting trouble to break out, they just love the fried bologna. Officer Treffins of the Melrose Park Police Department puts it simply: “I’m Sicilian. We grew up on this, this was a staple. You wanted lunch, here’s a bologna sandwich.”