Anyone who lives in the Windy City knows that it is home to many Chicago style Italian foods! Some of which include Chicago style deep dish pizza, and Italian beef sandwiches! Nevertheless, not all are aware that Melrose peppers are also “a Chicago thing”.
Melrose peppers are a type of sweet pepper that look very similar to hot peppers. They are only about 5 inches in length, and range in colors from green to red. Since they are small in size, they are often mistaken hot peppers, but they are just the opposite! Melrose peppers contain a unique sweetness not found in ordinary peppers. They are even described as sweeter than bell peppers. They are originally from Italy but were brought to Chicago over a century ago!
Chicago was previously a very large fruit and vegetable bearing area. The history of the Melrose pepper dates back to the early 1900’s when the Neapolitan couple, Joseph and Lucia Napolitano immigrated from Southern Italy to America. Their departure from their home country was due to soil depletion.
The fertile land of America was ideal for their farming. Therefore, as a part of their journey to America, the couple made sure they brought many seeds with them. These seeds would eventually grow into fruits and vegetables that would provide food for themselves and their future family. One particular type of seed they brought were Melrose pepper seeds. The pepper seeds were planted in Melrose Park, a western suburb of Chicago. This is where they got their clever name from. The peppers that grew were not like ordinary peppers. They were much more tender, thinner skinned, and possessed a much sweeter flavor.
Melrose peppers are delicious and can be prepared in a variety of different ways. They can be sauteed in olive oil, made into sauce, roasted, dried, or stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta, or sausage. During summer in Chicago, Melrose peppers can be found easily. Grocery stores in Chicago such as Mariano’s and Caputo’s carry Melrose peppers in August!