TGI Fry-Day: Ceci e Fave from J.P Graziano Grocery Co., Inc.

TGI Fry-Day

Reviews of fried food in Chicago.


[Photograph: Joe Roy]

Generally speaking, fried food is best straight from the deep fryer: the longer it sits, the exponentially worse it gets. Wait too long to eat a mozzarella cheese stick or a french fry, and you'll be rewarded with a cold, soggy exterior and a gummy interior. Time and fried food wait for no man, as the saying goes.

But there is one glaring exception to this deep fried axiom: fried snack foods. Think potato chips, pork rinds, etc. While there's still the chance such foods will go stale if they sit too long, their extra long fry time means that crispy, crunchy, and salty are only a handful away—and, for a change, at your convenience.

Fried food of any kind is the last thing I expect from J.P. Graziano Grocery Co., Inc. Then I tried their Ceci e Fave ($3.50 for a 1/2 pound container, or $7.95 per pound in bulk), and it all made perfect sense. While most of the best ideas these days from the Johnny-come-lately sandwich seller come from son Jim, this feather rightfully belongs in Mrs. G's cap. Long before they started making the best Italian subs in the city, Graziano was exclusively a wholesaler, including coconut oil-fried garbanzo (ceci) and fava (fave) beans imported from New York. Always available in one of the ubiquitous brown barrels that dot the storefront, Mrs. G recently decided to package them up, stock them next to the register, and give samples to hungry sandwich buyers. They've been flying off the shelf ever since. I succumbed myself when I stopped in for their recent 75th Anniversary this past week.

Audibly crunchy and nicely salted, both beans are substantially heartier than similar fried snacks. In other words, a handful of these will actually stave off hunger. Whether you choose to think of these as a healthier alternative to potato chips (just go with it, ok?) or an exercise in effective product placement, I'll be thinking of them as downright delicious.

J.P. Graziano Grocery Co, Inc.

901 W Randolph Street Chicago, IL 60607 (map)