Prisco’s Family Market

1108 Prairie Street, Aurora, IL 60506 | 630-264-9400

Hours: Monday - Friday, 7 am to 8:30 pm | Saturday, 7 am to 8 pm | Sunday, 8 am to 7 pm

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Prisco’s Italian Heritage- Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Our formative years as a business

When I think about what drives our thinking here at Prisco’s and helps to differentiate us from the crowd, I invariably come back to the subject of our heritage. Our founders, my grandparents Tony and Mary Prisco emigrated from Italy in the early part of the 20th century and left their mark on our operation that has endured through four generations. How to explain it? Think of three Cs: Culture, Community, and Cuisine.

Without making this a history lesson, we can recall that the Italian culture has given us everything from the Roman Empire, to Leonardo, Galileo and Michelangelo, to Vivaldi and Verdi, to present day food icons Giada DiLaurentis and Mario Batalli. These gifts of sound government, art, science, music, and great food are things that we admire and pattern ourselves after. Although he didn’t consider himself more than a dedicated meat cutter, I considered my father Tony an artisan with a knife. Although he bought meat from the same sources as other shops, he was a perfectionist and had a pride and fierce dedication to producing the finest cuts around. He chopped, seamed, diced, and boned like no one I have ever seen and developed a loyal following that persists even today under my sister Margaret’s supervision. His dedication to his business, family, and community earned him the Aurora Historical Society’s Italian Cultural Champion Award for 2013.

The Italian community in Aurora in the early 1900s was a dynamic, thriving area of town centered around St. Peter’s church on the southwest side. Typical of many immigrant communities, these early settlers first built a church to give thanks to the Almighty for the freedom and opportunity they found in our great country, and then a community center where they could gather. In fact the Italian Club which existed for the better part of a century was officially known as the Italian American Mutual Aid Society. Members helped relatives and acquaintances coming over from the “old country” to find housing, food, and employment. My grandparents and others built our community by living the American Dream. Barely educated, they started businesses, survived two world wars and the Great Depression, raised their children and unquestionably left the community better than they found it. Although they didn’t have a lot themselves, they were extremely generous, supporting their churches and charities, and would even take people in off of the streets. In the process, they left a lasting impression on our generation.

 

- Bob Prisco

 

Playing with Craft Beer Led to a Career- Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The dream of most kids in their 20s: Go to college, earn a degree, work in the big city, make a good buck, grab life and wrestle it to the ground; become invincible. When the bottom fell out of the job markets in the late 2000s though, recent college graduates and job-seekers were faced with a monumental hurdle: beat out experienced candidates that were willing to work for inexperienced salaries. So how do you get through a tough time like that? Well one way is to find a hobby to keep insanity at bay.

In 2010, I graduated with B.S. Marketing with an emphasis in Market Research from Northern Illinois University. While NIU provided a fantastic education and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, finding the right fit in a corporation proved to be more difficult than expected. I received a taste of the corporate life while consulting for a Fortune 200 company in 2009, experienced true entrepreneurship while helping a friend launch his own company in 2010, and accumulated Dean’s Honors each semester while studying in the upper-level business program. Yet through all the interviews and resumes sent, something didn’t feel right during the job hunt.

While working part-time and job-hunting full-time after graduating, I was handed our craft beer section by my brother Pete, who left the company for a career more-related to his studies. At the time we sold about 20-30 different craft beers, mostly from Windy City Distributing. Pete had called up Dan Schnarr (who is still a close friend of Prisco’s and now regional manager for Lagunitas Brewing) and brought the likes of Lagunitas, Two Brother’s and Buffalo Bill’s to Prisco’s.

After exploring the section for a few months and writing a few orders, a few customers noticed me hovering in aisle 2 more often. One of these was Steve Warrenfeltz, owner of Kiss the Sky in Batavia (if you haven’t checked out his shop yet and you love music, get in there!) Steve asked me for a beer that made me wrinkle my nose, Gumballhead by this brewery Three Floyds. I swear no less than 4 days later, a sales rep from Louis Glunz Distribution walked in the door with sales catalog. Browsing through the book, I got entranced by the names and descriptions of beers like Ichabod by New Holland, Vanilla Porter by Breckenridge, Chimay Cinq Cents, and Founder’s Dirty Bastard. The packaging was entrancing and the descriptions made me salivate, even though I really didn’t enjoy beer, and when I did, it was PBR or Miller High Life. The second-to-last page of the book I found a beer that made me do a double-take, Gumballhead. And, as they say, the rest was history.

I’m pretty sure I almost gave my Uncle Rob a heart attack the next week when I made the Glunz delivery crew change their shirts from hauling so much beer. Gradually I expanded the craft beer set, stealing space from the stacks and stacks of the domestic giants. A few of the neighborhood beer geeks started coming in and chatting. Really, the way I got so into the craft beer scene and brewing was our awesome customers. If they asked for the beer, they got the beer. I think my beer sales reps thought I was nuts. It took a little while, but pretty soon our selection caught on and Prisco’s became the hidden gem for beer lovers. We now boast over 700 beers, ciders and meads on the shelf.

There is one advantage the small, family-owned stores the big-boxes will never be able to touch and that’s listening to the customers. We listen to our customers and try our very hardest to make sure they are happy. Their happiness is our happiness, their families are our family.

I have a lot to share, so maybe you can tell me what you’d like to know about me next. Choose from home brewing, traveling the U.S., or dreaming in the kitchen (no I didn’t fall asleep on the stove).


Cooked Vs Raw Vegetables - Which offers the most nutritional value?- Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It has long been debated by raw food enthusiasts and the more traditional schools of cooking as to which way to eat vegetables is healthier, raw or cooked.

Vegetables contain many nutrients essential for good health.  These plant foods supply carbohydrates, antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins.  The nutritional values of vegetables may change during processing or cooking.  Different preparation methods (including cooking temperatures) can affect the vitamin content of most vegetables.

While some foods may lose many of their nutritive benefits between harvesting and eating, using certain cooking techniques may help your vegetables retain many of these important nutrients.  Cooking is a process that is adopted to make food easily digestible, destroy disease causing germs, and to enhance its taste and flavor.  Naturally, it has several advantages as well as disadvantages.

Carbohydrates:  The starch swells during cooking and becomes gelatinous. Thus, cooking helps in proper digestion of carbohydrates.

Proteins:  Moderate heat splits protein and shrinks it in size.  As a result, it becomes more easily digestible.  However, severe heat (during roasting, baking and frying) reduces the nutritional value of proteins.

Thiamine:  About 20% to 50% of thiamine (Vitamin B1) is lost to cooking, with the greatest loss occurring when foods are boiled, baked or fried.  It is also depleted if you add soda for cooking vegetables.

Folic acid and Vitamin B12:  Both these vitamins tend to be lost when using cooking methods such as pressure cooking, roasting or frying.  In addition to the loss due to heat, folic acid and vitamin B12 are also lost when excess water is discarded after cooking.

Vitamin C:  This vitamin is lost by oxidation due to exposure to air and by discarding excess water after cooking. About 10% to 60% of vitamin C is lost during cooking depending upon its method and the vegetable cooked.  Furthermore, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Sodium, Potassium, and Magnesium  are all lost when excess water is discarded after cooking.

Techniques for cooking vegetables include microwaving, steaming, stir-frying, deep-frying, baking and boiling. Using low heat and quick methods of cooking can help retain vitamins.

According to North Dakota State University, microwaving foods provides a method of cooking that helps to retain the vitamins in vegetables.  Microwaving foods takes less time than conventional methods and reduces the need for water.  Steaming vegetables until slightly tender may also help preserve both vitamins and color.  Another quick method of cooking, stir-frying, adds a crisp texture, without requiring long cooking times.

While eating vegetables raw or lightly cooked may help them retain healthy amounts of vitamins, cooking can provide benefits as well.  According to the arthritis foundation, cooked tomatoes supply three to four times more lycopene than raw tomatoes.  Cooking releases this antioxidant from the fibrous portions of the vegetables, making it easier to absorb.  Cooked carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers and many other vegetables also supply more antioxidants, such as carotenoids and ferulic acid, to the body than they do when raw.

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2002 showed that cooking carrots increases their level of beta-carotene.  Beta-carotene belongs to a group of antioxidant substances called carotenoids, which give fruits and vegetables their red, yellow and orange colorings. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which plays an important role in vision, reproduction, bone growth, and regulating the immune system.  Cooking can also help destroy bacteria and parasites.

In conclusion, there are strong arguments for eating both raw and cooked vegetables and since the latest guidelines from the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services calls for the consumption of 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day, we recommend that you balance what you eat and enjoy some prepared each way every day.  One thing we can assure you here at Prisco's Family Market is that you never need be bored eating the same old thing day after day.  We offer well over 175 different varieties of fresh vegetables in our store, and we have thousands of different vegetable recipes on our web site available 24/7.

Study proves Organic Strawberries top Conventional- Thursday, September 18, 2014

by Michelle Venetucci Harvey, originally posted on Sept. 3, 2010

Does growing food organically really matter? Supporters of conventional agriculture say that organic farming is little more than a fad -- and that organic produce lightens consumers’ wallets for no tangible benefits. And unfortunately, since agro-ecosystems are so complex, scientists have had a hard time cutting through the haze of claims and counter-claims.

Until now: "Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems," a study led by Washington State University Regents professor of soil science John Reganold, is one of the most comprehensive, persuasive studies yet to show the nutritional and environmental benefits of organic farming. Its findings only apply to strawberries -- but they do point the way to the kind of research that can, and should, be done with other crops as well.
 The study design was both careful and comprehensive in scope. The strawberries were grown on 13 conventional and 13 organic fields, with organic/conventional field pairs located adjacently in order to control for soil type and weather patterns. The data was drawn from repeated harvests over a two-year period, and the strawberries were picked, transported, and stored under identical conditions to replicate retail practices. And just as farming is a complex business, scientists contributing to the study range from soil and food scientists to genetics experts and statistics specialists, who analyzed 31 soil properties, soil DNA, and the relative taste and nutritional quality of three strawberry varieties in California.

 The results are pretty convincing: organic strawberries are healthier, tastier, and better for the soil than conventional strawberries.

 First, let’s take a look at strawberry quality. Consumers buying organic products consistently cite the health benefits of organic foods as a main purchasing motivation. Yet there is a general lack of conclusive data to back this up. However, the WSU study found that organic strawberries ultimately beat conventional strawberries in quality, based on a number of factors: Organic methods resulted in strawberries with increased antioxidants, vitamin C, and total phenolics. While phosphorus and potassium levels were higher in conventional crops, the study emphasized the importance of vitamin C and antioxidants in relation to human health; vitamin C from strawberries has been shown to have a direct, negative effect on cancer cell growth.

 The plants themselves are also healthier: Organic strawberry plants showed fewer instances of post-harvest fungal rots than conventional strawberries, despite the fact that no fungicides were used on the organic fields. The study notes this finding may prove that organic systems help defend plants against infection through systemic-acquired resistance rather than chemical inputs.
And for those who value flavor more than health, organic also outdoes conventional in taste tests. Consumer-sensory panels found little difference between two of the organic and conventional strawberry varieties, but preferred the organic "Diamante" variety for its appearance and sweetness over its conventional counterpart.

Then there’s the issue of soil quality. While consumers may be solely interested in the end result, farming leaders such as Will Allen and Wendell Berry have stressed that high-quality soil is the basis for healthy agro-ecosystems. California farmers have relied on methyl bromide (an ozone-depleting toxic fumigant) to sterilize  their soil for decades, and as a result have reduced soil from a habitat for microorganisms into a growing medium devoid of nutrients. Despite the conventional practice of spraying soils with synthetic fertilizers, the study found that organic fields contained significantly higher amounts of nutrients. Organic and conventional soils contained similar levels of most extractable nutrients, but organic soil had higher levels of zinc, boron, sodium, and iron. Organic soils also performed better through a number of biological properties, such as enzyme activities, micronutrient levels, and carbon sequestration.

 But what’s perhaps most interesting in the study is the use of DNA analysis, which helped scientists establish that organic soils contain a significantly higher amount of unique genes and overall genetic diversity. In a time when global warming is creating increasingly unpredictable weather conditions, biodiversity is one of our greatest defenses against climate change (for more on this idea, look no further than activist and physicist Vandana Shiva, a compelling advocate of the social, economic, and health-related benefits of biodiversity).

Strawberry fumigants are a hot-button issue in California right now, making this study especially timely. While the negative effects of methyl bromide have been established, and it was technically banned under an international treaty back in the 1980s, the fumigant is still being used until a substitute can be found. However, the proposed methyl iodide, approved under the Bush administration in 2008, is possibly even more toxic than methyl bromide, as Tom Laskawy has covered for Grist. In light of the study, this controversy is bordering on the absurd -- why even look for a new fumigant when organic production clearly produces better soil quality, increased nutrient density, and doesn't rely on chemicals that make farm workers sick?

 For any naysayers out there who are clinging to the Monsanto line that conventional agriculture is the only way to feed the world, while this study doesn’t delve into crop yields itself, a 2009 report put out by the Union of Concerned Scientists may put that claim to rest. Despite the fact that in some instances conventional methods may marginally raise the yield of food crops (while genetically modified crops were shown to produce no increase in yield), this study notes it comes at a high cost to the environment and our health. The chemical inputs used in conventional farming are directly contributing to unpredictable climate changes, which will affect our long-term ability to consistently grow food.

 It's hard to argue against Reganold's findings. Even while some categories of analysis produced similar results between conventional and organic strawberries, the fact that organic methods did not rely on toxic chemical inputs is a big, juicy point in its favor. Promoting organic agro-ecosystems means fewer people will be exposed to toxic chemicals, all in the name of producing a healthier, tastier piece of fruit.

 A version of this post first appeared on Sightline Institute's Daily Score Blog.
 Michelle Venetucci Harvey is a marketing and communications intern at the Sightline Institute. She also doubles as a senior at the University of Washington, where she focuses on urban food systems and spends her free time at the UW Farm.

Things are beginning to change at Prisco’s, let me give you the lowdown!- Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hello I’m Beth (Prisco) Guzauskas. Most of you usually see me behind the deli counter where I manage our deli, bakery and café. It’s a very exciting time here at our store because there is real change in the wind. That’s correct, there are lots of new and exciting things happening.

First we made a subtle change in our store’s name in order to be more in touch with what we stand for. For decades we’ve been Prisco’s Fine Foods, a family-owned neighborhood grocery store. Our new name is Prisco's Family Market. We all feel that this small change better describes the experience that you can come to expect every time you visit. Our store is surrounded by gigantic out of town box stores where no one knows you and faces change every time you visit. We love offering our customers an excellent shopping experience from the time you step in the door until the moment we ring up you order and walk it to your car for you.

This week we have also introduced our new website packed with helpful information; it is also the main hub for communicating with you, our customers. The new site has a new address as well: www.priscosfamilymarket.com. Our printed bi-weekly circular has a new look and will now arrive in your mailbox as a separate piece of mail easy to spot. It will also be available 24/7 on the website.

Starting this weekend we will be launching an exciting program just for shoppers who register on the web. It’s called Prisco’s Shopper’s Choice Awards, and registered members will receive a selection of door buster offers. They will be given the option of choosing one and redeeming it in store. These new, online–only super-hot offers will be available every week, so be sure to register on our new website to receive them!

Finally, I’d like to call your attention to the Deli / Bakery / Café where we have two exciting new announcements.

<> Our specialty cheese offerings – On your next visit head over to the long refrigerated case opposite the deli counter and take in the extensive new line of imported and artisan-made cheeses we have added to our selection. For the past couple of weeks we have been sampling some beautiful and delicious cheeses, and customers have overwhelmingly loved them. Watch for new cheese demos every weekend.

<> Our New Catering Menu – I’m very proud of the great job my daughter Bridget and her friend Sam Donnell (former Prisco’s deli clerk) did at putting together this new menu. In every way it is a true reflection of what we as a fresh market stand for. You see, it was 88 years ago that my grandparents Tony and Mary Prisco first opened a store a short distance from our present location on the first floor of their two story home. At the time Grandma Mary raised the family upstairs while Grandpa Tony ran the store as well as the store on wheels which he drove all over Aurora. Many of the recipes offered in those early days came directly with them from Italy, and they are still being offered today in our store --  prepared now by the third and forth generation of Prisco family members. We prepare the order just a few minutes before the customer arrives to pick it up in order to assure that they are receiving the freshest offering possible. We never cut corners and only use the highest quality ingredients, thus providing every customer a gourmet meal at an affordable price.aking food and making the community happy is our specialty.  As we like to often say, " We talk with our food... and our hands!"

Please take a few minutes to page through our new catering menu.

 

 

All Hail to Kale- Friday, August 29, 2014

Not too long ago Kale was a real unknown in the world of vegetables. People thought of it as nothing more than a plate garnish of even a lower status than parsley. Lately, however, that’s no longer the case. Kale has become much more popular ever since word spread about its remarkable nutritional value.

One cup of chopped kale has more Vitamin C than an orange, and it’s also a very good source of Vitamin A. Kale also provides more calcium per 100 grams than you will get in 100 grams of milk!

We don't typically think of our greens as sources of even healthful fats. But kale is actually a great source of (ALA), the omega-3 fatty acid that's essential for brain health, and which reduces Type 2 diabetes risk and boosts heart health.

Don’t overdo it

A quick word of caution: Like with anything, too much of such a good thing as kale can be non-beneficial. “There are a couple of controversial things about kale that are worth mentioning," says Deirdre Orceyre, a naturopathic physician at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the George Washington University Medical Center. It’s large concentration of Vitamin K can be a problem for people taking blood thinners and other medications because it promotes clotting; the green also contains oxalates, which in lab tests have been associated with kidney stones and some gallstones.

We often hear that adding fiber to your diet is good for your digestive system but watch out for kale as you might bite off more than you can chew. Raw kale in particular "can be hard on the digestive system" says Orceyre, — meaning it can cause bloating, gas and other abdominal issues — "and also contains a compound that can suppress thyroid function in certain people," she adds. That's why she doesn't recommend eating the vegetable uncooked or juicing it more than once or twice a week, though she says you can eat as much of the cooked veggie as you like. Finally, Orceyre cautions that kale crops are often sprayed with pesticides, so buy organic if you can manage it, and in all cases be sure to clean vegetables well to wash away any surface chemicals.

Tips to help with taste

Indeed, good overall preparation is essential if you want to enjoy that giant bag of kale, which has a well-deserved reputation for being tough and bitter. To avoid bitterness cut the center stem out. That's what makes it really tough. Cut out the larger stems and slice the leaves into strips, then wash them thoroughly and sprinkle them with baking soda or baking powder to tenderize. If you are new to kale, start out using baby kale, which is less bitter and more tender, and can be easier and quicker to work with.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Rinse kale leaves under cold running water. Chop leaf portion into 1/2" slices and the stems into 1/4" lengths for quick and even cooking. To get the most health benefits from kale, let sit for a minimum of 5 minutes before cooking. Sprinkling with lemon juice before letting them sit can further enhance its beneficial phytonutrient concentration. There are differing schools of thought on this but most nutritionists agree that the healthiest way to prepare kale is steaming. Fill the bottom of a steamer pot with 2 inches of water. While waiting for the water to come to a rapid boil chop greens. Steam for 5 minutes and toss with your favorite vinaigrette.

Are you ready for what just may be your first adventure in kale? Well now is a good time try as it’s featured this week at Brookhaven Marketplace for just 69¢ a bunch. Here are a number of kale recipes to get you started.

Credits – much of the material in this blog came from an article published in the Washington Post 9/25/2012 written by Carolyn Butler

What makes Prisco’s Ground Beef so superior to other supermarket ground beef?- Friday, August 29, 2014

Hi – for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Margaret Prisco and I manage the store’s meat department. Being a woman in the meat industry is a bit like being a Jamaican bobsledder… it happens, but not very often. People who first meet me often struggle with the idea of a rather petite woman hauling around beef carcasses.

Actually, some things in the meat industry have changed a great deal since I started my career, while many others remain fairly consistent. With the advent of pre-cut boxed beef you will seldom find a half carcass of beef in any store, but beyond that, trimming, packaging and preparing the meat for display in our case is done the same way as it was forty years ago when I stood at my Dad’s side, watching and learning how to handle a butcher knife.

We are often asked, "What is it that you do with your ground meats that make them so delicious and keeps my family asking for more?" Whatever it is, they certainly don’t know how to do it at the big chains!

Well, I just love to tell customers the story. Over 50 years ago my father made a couple of decisions about how he would run his business that was handed down from his father, and it was those decisions that have been the key to our continued success as the leading meat store in Aurora.

  1. Sell only quality meats - He chose quality over offering the cheapest price using standard or utility grades of meat. To this day and for as long as the name on the door is Prisco’s, we will only sell USDA choice beef, all natural pork, and fresh grade “A” poultry.

  2. Grind the best – never meat past its prime. The other firm belief that Dad drilled into us is that your entire store is only as good as the ground meats that you sell. You see, most grocery stores today ignore this philosophy and offer nothing ground fresh, but sell only prepackaged tubes or tubs of ground meet processed in a factory hundreds of miles away. We won’t ever do that because we have no idea what the condition of that meat was when it was dumped into the grinder. Don’t get me wrong, a number of meat shops still do all their own grinding in-house, but not for the same reason we do. They use the grinder to get rid of all the cuts in the counter that haven’t sold and are beginning to show signs of deterioration. When we see meat not selling the way we’d like, we reduce the price for quick sale. What goes in our grinder is fresh meat- full of bloom and flavor.

Our ground meats truly are the backbone of the fresh meat department and our regular customers know that to be a fact because they continue to come back to us week in and week out. They know exactly what they will be getting when they purchase ground meats from Prisco’s Family Market -- The freshest, juiciest, most delicious ground meat in the Fox Valley region.