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Superb old-world charcuterie from West Loop Salumi

Gregory Laketek bought a one-way ticket to Italy, and didn't leave until he learned the secrets behind the country's best culatello.

Laketek apprenticed with Massimo Spigaroli, Parma's famed charcuterie maker, helping Spigaroli's four employees produce 800 to 1,000 pounds of charcuterie per day. He returned with historic recipes, which you can taste at the new West Loop Salumi on Randolph Street.

Go for classic but unusual Italian-style charcuterie like ciauscolo ($25 for 7-10 ounces), a Lambrusco-and-garlic-flavored sausage that's spreadable, like 'nduja. West Loop's guanciale ($30 a pound) is silky and mild, make from the jowls of milk-fed pigs from a Wisconsin farm; its finnochiona ($18 for 4-6 ounces) is packed with fennel pollen and seeds. Lardo ($3.50 per ounce) comes from Michigan-raised hogs, the slabs of backfat rubbed with rosemary, oregano, garlic and thyme.

Laketek and his partner--Jesse Katzman, formerly of Avec--occasionally deviate from Italian tradition. Spanish chorizo ($16 for 4-6 ounces) is paprika-packed, though softer and looser than the Spanish classic. Lardo from coveted Ibérico de bellota hogs will be ready in three months.

The culatello, which Laketek calls "the best part of the prosciutto," won't be ready until late 2014. In the meantime, Laketek scored one from Spigaroli in Parma--purchased from Alain Ducasse's private stash, no less. Ask Laketek for a slice when you visit West Loop's brand-new retail counter.

West Loop Salumi 1111 W. Randolph St. Chicago IL 60607 312-255-7004

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