Neighborhood groceries are a rarity in today’s America. More and more, people are accustomed to shopping in aisles wide enough for two people to push a cart through without even brushing arms. Glorioso Brothers Company Italian Foods, 1020 E. Brady St., is one Italian market where the aisles are narrow enough that you might have to yield to another shopper, but you might also be able to have a conversation.
Three brothers, Joe, Eddie and Ted Glorioso, opened the grocery on Feb. 14, 1946. The brothers were 23, 21 and 16 years old respectively upon opening. Their father was a fruit peddler, and after serving in various parts of the military they decided to continue in the food business and open a store.
The brothers still work together almost daily after over 63 years. Eddie, 84, works mostly in the deli, but said he’s cut down from working 12 and a half hour days.
Now they’re only nine and a half hours long.
“If it weren’t for the calluses on the bottom of my feet, I’d be here 24 hours,” Eddie said.
The Glorioso brothers are proud of their Sicilian heritage. Eddie speaks fluent Italian and has a bumper sticker that reads: “Happiness is being Sicilian” on the back of the store’s van — the same one he and his brother drove to Chicago to pick up produce for 54 years.
Eddie said he still works here because he enjoys people.
“I’m always happy, always smiling,” Eddie said.
And he’s right. Whether someone asks for a chocolate-dipped cannoli, a scoop of olives or a half pound of genoa salami, Glorioso cheerfully assists. If you’ve visited before, he might even remember whether you like mild, medium or full garlic in your salami.
Eighty-five percent of the food is cooked on site. Heading the culinary operation is Tim Sampson, whom Eddie calls the “chef.” Sampson, modestly, acknowledged he has help from other cooks.
“There’s a camaraderie here that you can’t get anywhere else,” Sampson said. “They take a person like me and make me feel like part of the family.”
Among their Mediterranean morsels are garlic bread, macaroni and cheese and pasta salads. Eddie said visitors who are overwhelmed by the variety of specialty food items should head to the deli. Here they serve a variety of sandwiches and salads, but his favorite is either the meatball or Italian beef. Prices range from $3.25 to $8.25 per sandwich.
These smaller quarters offer unique items you may not be able to be found anywhere else in the city. Glorioso’s carries Italian meats, cookies and candies, gelato, specialty canned products like San Marzano tomatoes and the house-made hot pepper blends, among other foods.
Eddie said his business offers large selections of Italian staples.
“We have 106 different cuts of pasta, both dried and frozen,” Eddie said.
They also have a large selection of Italian cheeses like Parmigiano-Regiano, smoked mozzarella and ricotta salata.
Karen Caskinette, a longtime employee of Glorioso’s, said her newest obsession is an extra virgin olive oil called Olio Carli that sells for $16.99 per liter. The store has a very large selection of olive oils for purchase.
“Even after 17 years there are still things I have yet to try,” Caskinette said.
Eddie said that with the stores growing selection, space has been getting tight. The family grocery will be moving across the street to the old Astor Theatre building, 1696 N. Astor St., within six to nine months.
“There’s so much olive oil, olives, vinegars that we just don’t have room for,” Eddie said.
Current owners Joe and Ted Glorioso plan to hand the business to the next generation in some years.
Michael Glorioso, Ted’s son, and his cousin Felice, who is Joe’s son, are next up.
“We’re in line to transition the business over,” Michael said.
The generation after that is already in training. Felice Glorioso’s son Joey and daughter Maria both work at the shop.