Here’s sad news that takes a slice out of the remaining history and tradition on Chicago’s food scene: Italian Superior Bakery, which has been located on Western Avenue not far from the Taylor Street enclave since 1940 (and goes back to 1933), will close on December 31. As this well-researched piece tells its history (check out the evocative photos as well), it was founded by Salvatore Masi, who had a bakery in Queens in the 1920s, and offered a variety of traditional bread styles for Italians in the neighborhood well into the 2000s. By then it was a bit of a mystery spot, open only a few hours a week and mainly known to old customers (and possibly a bit off-putting to newcomers), and in 2007 Salvatore’s son Frank Masi closed the bakery, but looked for someone willing to take it over. In 2008 a family named Saccomeno reopened it and in time built a sunny cafe which offered sheet pizza (highly recommended) and subs, served on housemade bread. But even as Taylor Street is revitalized by new businesses, one of the most traditional old ones has found it hard to weather the rising cost of ingredients and the success of chains serving commodity food at cheap prices.
In a statement on Facebook, the Saccomeno family wrote:
We too at the Bakery have struggled very hard particularly in the past two years to manage this very historic and traditional business known to many as “Western Ave Bread”. Unfortunately, the decrease in the volume of sales coupled with the rising cost of goods needed to produce our offerings has just pushed our ability to remain a viable business.
Beyond these economic issues that we and many others have had to overcome, the ever increasing commercialization of food production in our society such as the offerings by the Walmart, Costco of the world and any of the number of fast food chain, have created a trend for purchasing goods out of convenience rather than purchasing those products that are handmade with quality materials and are rooted in Artisan and traditional methods. These changes in societal ways will be the demise of the mom and pop stores across our nation.
Sad words, but true, and you are commanded forthwith to go try it in the next two and a half months, so you’ll know what we’ve lost. [Facebook; h/t Mafourni via Twitter]