Youth Served at Balestri Sopressata Contest

By Chuck Sudo September 26, 2011 11:15 AM (Chicagoist)
Photo below of Theresa Riccelli’s (left) sopressata recipe is in safe hands with first place winner Kelly Day (center)

Anthony may have been impressed with all the improvements at Chicago Gourmet this past weekend, but the most accessible tasting event of the weekend was in a union banquet hall in suburban Countryside with Frank Balestri’s fifth annual sopressata contest.

Balestri, a Chicago cop, seemed as shocked as the attendees at how the festival has grown in a short time from a small group of people in a bar to an event with an attendance of almost 700 people who are almost as obsessed with the tradition of making their own versions of Calabrian salami as Balestri. “I’m proud to say my sons are now making their own ‘sod’ and the tradition has been passed down,” Balestri said during a speech before the judging of 53 entries of homemade “supersod.” (I was one of the judges for yesterday’s event, in the interest of disclosure.)

What was surprising when the winners were announced was the number of entries that came from younger people. It wasn’t just Balestri’s sons that were keeping the tradition alive. The first place entry belonged to Kelly Day, who’s as much Italian as Balestri is Irish. Day’s sod was one of my favorites of the evening, with a great red color, amazing texture, prominent spice and a creeper heat in the back of the throat that announced its presence long after I finished sampling.

Day learned to make sopressata from her Calabrian mother-in-law, Theresa Riccelli. It goes to reminds us that, if you’re going to learn wisdom, learn from a direct source.
See full artical and more photos at The Chicagoist

Cured meat fans keep soppresata-making tradition alive

By Lisa Shames September 20, 2011 3:04PM (Chicago Sun-Times)
Wauconda resident Bill King holds fresh soppressata in its casing. Since 1994, King has hosted a soppressata-making party in his garage. | Courtesy Bill King

To the uninitiated, soppressata looks like any run-of-the-mill salami. But to many of Chicago’s Italian-American residents, it is much, much more.

Every winter for the last 20 years, Mario Mandrefini, a Berwyn firefighter and park district commissioner, has converted his wine cellar into a soppressata curing room, carrying on an annual tradition he first learned as a young boy from his grandparents, who immigrated to Chicago from Calabria, Italy.

In Wauconda, Bill King, a retired paramedic, and his wife, Janice, owner of Chicago Hairport beauty salon in Bridgeport, have hosted an annual multi-day soppressata-making party at their home since 1994.

What initially started out as a small affair with a few relatives has grown to include 20 families and assorted friends from as far away as Texas, and some 1,300 pounds of raw pork butt that gets ground, stuffed into casings and hung to cure.
See full artical at The Chicago Sun-Times

Pennsylvania Salami Makers: Homemade Soppressata or “Soupie”

By Vincent Scordo (
(photo: Scicchitano and his oldest son, Sal, getting the hang of cranking the grinder/stuffer. Courtesy of Matt Scicchitano)  

Travel a little over 5000 miles west form Calabria to the coal regions of central Pennsylvania and you’ll encounter another community intent on making world class Soppressata or “soupie” as they refer to it in coal country.  According to Matt Scicchitano, a reader, third and fourth generation Italian Americans produce soupie every year right around the first of January. Completely unaware of the aforementioned tradition, I’m posting Matt’s wonderful description of both the soppressata / soupie making tradition in central Pennsylvania and his vivid photos.
See full artical at

The Sodfather Abides 

Chicago cop Frank Balestri keeps the old-world custom of making soppressata—”supersod”—alive.

By Mike Sula (Chicago Reader)
Photo By Lloyd Degrane

The Sunday before Christmas, Frank “The Sodfather” Balestri deftly scattered fistfuls of fennel powder, crushed red pepper, cayenne, paprika, salt, and Calabrian chile paste over 50 pounds of raw, coarsely ground pork butt and some sirloin. He splashed it with wine, then he and a pair of old pals, Ron Ranola and Phil Speciale, plunged their hands into the cold meat, kneading the spices into it and plucking out chunks of white fat.
See full artical at The Chicago Reader

And The 2010 Winner Is…….

By James R. Bebarski

The Frank Balestrie 4th annual sopressata contest was a huge success said attendees. Held in September of 2010 at the Park Place of Countryside Banquet Hall in Countryside, Illinois, over 350 people and 40 contestants where in attendance. Many people from the Chicago-land area and other points where welcome to come and join the festivities, some participants even traveled hundreds of miles for this event.

The 2010 top 3 winners include:1st Place – Jerry Soukal2nd Place – Joe Palmsoni3rd Place – Anthony Reda

Frank would like to thank all of the sponsors and his team of helpers which made the night a fabulous success. If you would like more information Frank can be reached at (708) 588-1756. All profits were donated to the (Italian American War Veterans Post number two). will keep you posted on next year’s event.