The popular vote amongst the human population is that food is better when it tastes good. I know it’s a leap of faith stating such defiant testimonies but hey, I call ‘um like I see ‘um. Having been to thousands of atrocious foodie haunts for a quick bite is something I always swore will never happen again. Yet, in my uncontrollable famine and persistent pursuit to locate a hidden gem, I always end up at some dive with plaques on the wall from 1993 for “Best Cherry Pie”.
So I take it upon myself to educate the millions of people in and around the Chicagoland area about an eatery named simply Caffe Baci. With six locations located smack dab within the Loop, chances are you’ve passed by a Caffe Baci without taking a second look. Comprised of the utmost quality ingredients, hand made entrees and tiramisu that will make your knees buckle; Caffe Baci signifies a revolution in “Grab ‘n Go” cusine
Founder and owner of Caffe Baci Joe “JoJo” DiCarlo, has dedicated an insurmountable amount of time into his creation. Twenty years after his first Caffe Baci opening, JoJo is still going strong and there is no end in sight.
What makes Caffe Baci stand out from the thousands of other eateries within Chicago?
From my perspective, Caffe Baci stands out from other eateries in Chicago due to one significant aspect – i.e. our ability to provide high quality gourmet food at maximum speed. This sounds contrived, but it’s our reality; day in and day out, we evaluate, incorporate and adjust so that fresh, interesting and tasty food is provided at fast casual speed to Chicago workers and visitors alike. I love knowing that we are able to offer market fresh and interesting products in such casual café settings.
Aside from our speed, Caffe Baci stands out in other aspects. We were the first such Italian fast casual eatery in Chicago and after almost twenty (20) years, we continue to thrive and continue to be committed to offering our most notable and signature menu items at a high quality level. That being said, we also like to change it up a bit and offer seasonal specials or international specials to keep everyone satisfied and interested!
Personally, Caffe Baci is in a class by itself in relation to excellence and quality. Being massively influenced by freshness as well as tradition, why has Caffe Baci survived all these years when most restaurants close every day using cheaper ingredients?
Why we’ve endured for almost twenty (20) years can be attributable only to one thing – our commitment to providing gourmet level food, without skimping, without utilizing preservatives and without sacrificing taste. We see many other eateries closing their doors in this economy and we’ll acknowledge that it’s really hard out there – food costs are higher than they ever were and labor costs just keep escalating as well. We work incredibly hard every day to balance business concerns with quality concerns. In the end, it is often our realization that Caffe Baci MUST serve only the finest food products! Do we sacrifice in order to abide by our commitment in this regard? Certainly, in some regards we do! But, from a business point of view, the sacrifice is well worth it. It is that commitment to fresh high quality foods that wins us the most loyal of clients and friends alike – that is why we have survived all this time – because our clients and friends have come to rely on us for the best of Italian fast casual food; they know and believe that they can come to us to get that every single day!
You and I had a discussion about bread recently in which we agreed that finding a good bakery is almost impossible these days. That being said, how hard is it to find a supplier – whether it be bread, beans or lettuce – that actually cares about quality of ingredients?
In these times, finding excellent quality ingredients and suppliers is both very difficult and very easy. The key is finding excellent quality ingredients at an affordable price. It seems that people are more versed in food or at least interested in food – why else would the Food Network and Fine Living Channel be so popular?! Thus, more and more people are becoming very aware of where their food comes from, where it’s grown, if it’s organic and if it’s high quality. With such interest, of course come suppliers to satisfy the growing trend and desires. However, such high quality often times comes with an increased cost – organic products cost more, imported products cost more and artisanal products can be prohibitively priced when it comes to large volume. So, it’s not so hard anymore to locate vendors who are committed to high quality products and ingredients, but it is extremely difficult to locate vendors who can provide you with large volume of high quality ingredients at business conscious pricing. What we do at Caffe Baci is continually keep our eyes and ears open for new opportunities and new vendors – we research quite a bit at Baci!
Now finding good bread in this city is another issue altogether…
In an excerpt from your mission statement you say, “…high quality gourmet food at maximum speed.” Just how important is that declaration to the city of Chicago when everyone is in a hurried up state of mind?
For us, it’s very important – it’s one of the guiding principles we live by at Baci! It’s all about the high quality, gourmet level food being served at maximum speed. I think our clients appreciate how we’re able to deliver in this regard – I suppose that’s evident as we’ve been around for almost two (2) decades in this city.
What was the inspiration for Caffe Baci?
Well, as our website indicates, it all began with a sandwich…
I have always loved a perfectly crafted Italian sandwich… and I always thought that Chicagoans would as well. So, almost 20 years ago, I drew upon my many trips to Italy and experiences in my family’s restaurant. With all this cultural experience behind me, I’m sitting in Italy one day and I came up with Caffè Baci’s signature sandwich, the “Jojo,” which is a combination of imported prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, marinated artichoke hearts, sweet basil and plum tomatoes, which we serve on Italian filone and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. By the end of that day, I had designed Caffe Baci’s concept and even drawn up the core sandwiches and entrees for its menu.
All-time favorite item on the menu and why?
It has to be the Jojo sandwich – not because it’s named for me, but because it stands for what I always wanted Baci to be – simple, honest and fantastic. It completely satisfies me to eat it even to this day.
And finally, all Caffe Baci locations are located within downtown Chicago. Do you have any plans to open a Caffe Baci in the suburbs? Additionally, what can we expect from Caffe Baci and Joe DiCarlo in the near future?
We’d love to branch out into the suburbs of Chicago! Each new project and location takes time and effort to launch, but we’re always open to new ideas, new beginnings and new locations.
As far as what you can expect from Caffe Baci or Joe DiCarlo in the future, I’d say that whether it’s a new project, such as our newest venture, Caffe RoM, or an enduring concept, it will always be exceptional – exceptional food, exceptional experiences and exceptional friendships made and kept along the way.
Caffe Baci has six locations within Chicago, IL
10 South Riverside
2 North LaSalle
20 North Michigan
225 West Wacker
231 South LaSalle
332 South Michigan