According to Caruso Provisions co-founder Peter Caruso, giardiniera is “the quintessential condiment of Chicago.” Visitors can find it piled on the city’s iconic Italian beef sandwiches and pizza, and now consumers across the country can find Caruso Provisions Giardiniera at the grocery store. But what exactly is giardiniera? Pronounced jar-din-air-ah, the Italian-American relish is made by preserving vegetables in oil. “It’s deep and rich in flavor, and in Chicago we literally put it on just about everything,” explained Caruso.
Chicago-based Caruso Provisions is a family affair. Caruso’s parents, brother Dominic and sister Gina are involved in the business, and the giardiniera is inspired by his great-grandmother’s recipe, as well as Dominic’s expertise (he’s a professional chef). They’ve expanded rapidly since the company’s launch in 2021, and their giardiniera is now available in over 30 states at more than 1,000 restaurants and 300 retail locations, including specialty grocer The Fresh Market.
According to Caruso, Caruso Provisions giardiniera is distinguished by high-quality ingredients and attention to detail. “We added olive oil, we use a special pepper blend—ours is 50 percent peppers, 50 percent veggies—and the way we cut the peppers is different. In Chicago, we’re competing with dozens of other giardiniera brands,” he said. “We had to get people to taste it to see that we’re serving a premium product. We’re testing boundaries as far as what you can charge for something that’s always been available on the cheaper side.”
Currently, Caruso Provisions offers three giardiniera varieties. The original hot version includes serrano, jalapeno and habanero peppers, plus bell peppers for sweetness and celery, carrots and cauliflower for crunch. “You know you’re eating something spicy, but you can still enjoy the other food you’re having it with,” said Caruso.
There’s also a mild giardiniera which features red bell peppers, banana peppers and pepperoncini. Caruso said it goes with fish, salad and poultry. If you want bold flavors but you’re not into heat, the mild is a great complement to your dish. And the Chicago Caviar, a minced version of the hot giardiniera, is designed to be used in non-traditional applications such as appetizers, dips, and sauces. “You can put it on top of appetizers, like deviled eggs and bruschetta,” he said.
“It’s not just this condiment that you’re going to utilize for pizzas and [Italian] beefs,” Caruso further explained. “We’re trying to show it can complement so much more. It can be put in roasted chicken or fish dishes. We demo it with hummus, just to show what it can be.”
Looking to the future, Caruso wants to get his family’s giardiniera into more retail outlets across the country, while continuing to educate consumers about what giardiniera is and all the delicious ways they can use it. “We’d love to have Caruso’s become a pantry staple,” he said. “It can be more than just Chicago’s condiment.”
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