Forza Meats — the Glenview-based all-in-one butcher shop, market and deli — is basking in its one-year anniversary this week with its loyal customer base and rising popularity.
“To have customers in here two or three times a week getting deli meat, prepared food or meats makes me feel like I’m doing something right,” co-owner Mario Minelli said.
If the Minelli name rings a bell it’s because Minelli is a third-generation butcher. His grandparents owned a shop on Lexington and Western in the 1950s, and his father, John, and brothers, opened Minelli Brothers in Niles in 1970.
Mario Minelli continues to be a partner at his family’s business in Niles and also opened The Chop Shop in Wicker Park in 2013.
When Minelli’s childhood friend, Tyler Pontarelli, suggested they open a spot together in their hometown of Glenview, there was no hesitation.
“We were always the oldest kids in the youngest kids’ Little League. [We’d] get paired up together even though we went to different schools,” said Pontarelli, a former commodities trader.
The Old-School concept of knowing your neighborhood butcher is updated at Forza, 1811 Glenview Rd., with modern, industrial decor featuring gleaming white subway tiles, vaulted ceilings and a sleek, 20-foot butcher counter displaying the most pristine cuts of fresh meat.
“I grew up eating Mario’s family recipe Italian sausage and Italian beef — the best this side of the Atlantic,” said Pontaelli, Forza’s co-owner.
“Forza” in Italian translates to “power,” and is often used as a catch-all euphemism for pride in one’s heritage or to root on a sports team as in “Forza Italia!”
All meats at Forza are pasture-raised, domestic, all-natural and antibiotic- and hormone-free. The meat is locally sources from purveryors such as Slagel Family Farm in Fairbury and La Pryor Farm in Ottawa where heritage duroc hogs are sourced.
“We’re hearing more and more people want to know where their food comes from; they want to get closer to it,” said Pontarelli. “It’s better for the planet, it’s better for the animals and ultimately it results in a better product.”
Sausages are made in-house, including specialty sausages, bratwurst and Italian (hot and mild) sausage. Porchetta is made with pork belly and loin, flavored with citrus, whole fennel, garlic and crushed red pepper.
“At the end of the day, something gave its life for us … We try to use every part of the animal that we possibly can,” said head butcher Jimmy Shay. “Those odd bits and little pieces are nothing to be afraid of. They can be just as delicious a pork chop.”
In line with such thinking, the New Orleans-style boudin is made with pork trotters, shanks, liver, heart, tongue and cheeks mixed with rice, vegetables and spices.
Favorite hot subs at Forza include Italian beef and the meatball, and Italian sausage. Paninis and traditional deli subs often feature in-house giardiniera. The popular “Paisan” has capicola, sopressata, casalingo, provolone and other fixings. “The Salvatore” (named after Pontarelli’s son) features Genoa salami, capicola, mortadella, provolone and other items. Salads and vegetarian sandwiches are also available.
Take and bake pizza, hot and cold sides, pastas and ready-to-heat dinners are also available for pick-up. Forza also takes catering orders and custom orders for hard-to-find or specialty items.
There’s also a good selection of imported Italian foods, local products and bread from Turano Bakery. Prime steaks (including wet-aged and dry-aged), chops, sausages and hand pattied hamburgers are available to be picked up for grilling at home, along with bags of charcoal, too.
”I learned a lot from my dad. I was the youngest of six. He worked 16-, 17-, 18- hour days… Mama Minelli [Minelli’s grandmother] was rolling meatballs, making roast beef, gravy and stocks until she was 98 years old. These are her recipes,” Minelli said.
“Trust and respect goes a long way and people know when you’re honest with what you’re selling.”
Forza Meats is located at 1811 Glenview Rd., in Glenview. For more information call 224-432-MEAT or visit www.forzameats.com.