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How Joseph Antognoli's Alessi & Vigo products shape Italian cooking at home

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For the past 60 plus years, Sunset Foods has worked closely with Joseph Antognoli in bringing the best Italian-imported products to local midwestern shoppers.

“We’ve been doing this for more than 100 years in the Chicago area,” says longtime employee Rocco Ottolino about the company. A pioneer in importing foods from Italy, Antognoli is credited with bringing San Pellegrino water to America where it has become one of the most popular sparkling waters in the world. Paired with a slice of fresh lemon or lime or served plain, San Pellegrino’s lightness perfectly balances out any meal.

Alessi's imported Italian-made organic pasta, rice, olive oil, and vinegar are staple pantry ingredients for any serious chef. The quality and uniqueness of these products is amazing. “Everything [tastes delicious], including pasta sauces,” says Ottolino about his company’s 100-plus Alessi/Vigo product line. “We try and diversify ourselves [with products made in Italy]. Alessi and Vigo do everything.”

Anything and everything can be made delicious while using the Alessi and Vigo products, according to Ottolino.

“When it gets cooler out, people eat soups and pastas and tomatoes,” says Ottolino of the endless cooking possibilities that come with these brands of food. “You can make pasta with marinara sauce and vodka sauce, which cuts the time, or use chunky or smooth marinara.” With multiple sauces from which to choose, pair one with five different cuts of organic and regular pastas. The organic line features delicious spaghetti, linguine, penne rigate, rigatoni and mezzi paccheri.

Pastas require some sort of dressing, whether that’s a chunky marinara sauce or a drizzle of rich olive oil. For that, Antognoli produces its own line of brand products, including Il Duomo and Antica Italia olive oils and vinegars. As the parent company, only Antognoli has access to these products, so they’re not only authentic but also only available at Sunset. In addition, Antognoli has its own homemade Giardiniera brand called Pagliacci, which contains a lifelong family recipe. In the end, shoppers complete the Italian culinary experience using their imagination in the comfort of their own kitchen.

Watch the upcoming Windy City Live segment on ABC7, and get Alessi and Vigo products in Sunset Foods stores soon. During this television segment scheduled to air on Wednesday, Sept. 19, a chef will perform a live cooking demonstration during which he’ll use Alessi and Vigo products to create a certain dish in a timed culinary situation. At the end of the cooking demo, the television stars will taste just how delicious the Alessi and Vigo products are. Commercial breaks feature Sunset Food ads, and there are opportunities to even win a gift card.

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Saving Honeybees, recognizing one local beekeeper

In honor of the recent National Honeybee Day (Saturday, August 18), let’s take a closer look into one natural product that’s about as “bee-friendly” as it gets; meet one local beekeeper who has redefined the standard practice of producing honey, instead managing beekeeping on his own property and seeing that all profits go toward an organization that he and his wife care deeply about.

Sunset’s Lake Forest store sells 9oz jars of Natural Honey by Allen, now featured by the checkout counters. By all accounts, this is the only local honey that does not have any chemicals to preserve freshness or enhance flavor. A man of many talents, hobbies and trades, company founder Allen Kracower initially developed an interest in harvesting honeybees after his wife beat breast cancer. It was Caryn Kracower, a survivor herself who received successful treatment from the aforesaid hospital, who helped start a fund for patients recovering from breast cancer and needed everyday items needed while in recovery mode; all of the proceeds go toward Lake Forest Hospital in Caryn’s name.

Honey has healing qualities to it, according to homeopathic medicinal practitioners and non-licensed believers. For some time, Kracower recalls doctors with different specialties requesting honey to be used on their patients suffering from diseases like cancer and emphysema. The minimal filtration of Honey by Allen helps it retain more natural pollen grains, and consuming pollen from honey may reduce unpleasant seasonal allergy symptoms and could even help treat asthma. Although technically off the record, the results from those honey-based treatments proved astonishingly beneficial. It’s only through friendly beekeeping techniques that the bees can survive as they would in the wild.

“Bees are dying from mites that kill them,” says Kracower about the unfortunate trend. “We are treatment-free beekeepers, helping them survive naturally – even replacing the Queen; we do lose a lot of bees.”

In an effort to keep as many bees alive as possible, Kracower manages 15 hives with 40-50k bees in each one, all located on his private property in Mettawa, Illinois. Buying Lake Forest’s Honey by Allen will help bees thrive, as Kracower devotes himself to protecting local bee populations, and takes great care to produce his honey in a way that will keep his Lake Forest bees safe, happy and healthy for years to come.

Lake Forest Honey by Allen is minimally processed, which increases its nutritional value and overall quality. The honey is heated gently and filtered minimally. Consequently, Lake Forest Honey by Allen retains more healthful nutrients, antioxidants and minerals than more heavily processed honey. The nutrients and beneficial compounds in Lake Forest Honey by Allen makes the honey a smarter alternative to more refined sugars.

Come bring your family and friends to meet the bees and their beekeeper, Allen Kracower on Saturday, September 8 at 10 a.m. for a fun demonstration at our Lake Forest store.

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