Seems like I’ve been burned by menus a lot lately (more on that in this week’s review), so I don’t mean to pick on Rosie’s Sidekick, a counter-service sandwich shop from the family behind Portage Park’s 50-year-old Sicilia Bakery. But in this corner of the galaxy, eggplant Parm refers to battered slices of eggplant rolled in bread crumbs and grated Parmesan, then fried crispy and draped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
I know the history of parmigiana di melanzane traces back to Naples (not Parma), and I know you can cook the eggplant lots of different ways, but regardless, there’s no reason not to be very clear about what constitutes an acceptable eggplant Parm. It mostly doesn’t mean the eggplant is unadorned and roasted until slippery. You wouldn’t do that to a veal or chicken Parm, would you? My colleague Aimee Levitt noticed this very same thing at the late Rosie’s West Town Deli, operated by the same family.
OK, I should’ve read the fine print. It says it right on the menu that the eggplant Parm is baked—though there’s no indication it’s not crusty. It’s a soft, sloppy eggplant sandwich drenched in red sauce and ropy melted cheese. And that’s fine. But let’s be as transparent as possible, please. When I ate at Saba it happened to me there too, so Rosie’s, you’re not the only one. Must be a Logan Square thing.
The new Rosie’s has gotten a lot of love lately, in part because all their bread is baked at the mothership. They make their meatballs there also, and the tomato sauce, and the cookies on the counter, and a couple of soups. So I was really hoping this tiny spot would follow in the footsteps of recently opened places in little spaces that make miracles from scratch.
But Rosie’s isn’t one of them. Take the very impressive-looking muffaletta, stacked with mortadella, capicola, Genoa salami, and olive salad, the bottom bun splashed with balsamic vinegar. It’s hard to get past the meats, no more distinctive than anything you could order at the Jewel deli counter.
Same goes for the Italian beef, which is underseasoned enough to require an ample dose of giardiniera or sweet peppers to be noticed at all. And at the risk of coming off like a jerk for complaining about someone’s mother’s meatballs recipe, the much-vaunted orbs don’t travel well. They’re dense, tough, and gray underneath the thick blanket of red sauce.
These are strictly textbook examples of iconic Italian-American sacred cows, and it seems churlish to complain, but at the same time it’s difficult to get behind such an operation when it’s outperformed by everything from progressive sandwich slingers like Tempesta Market to classicists like J.P. Graziano to timeless journeymen like Riviera Food or Bari, where the prices are considerably cheaper—and where you won’t have to pull your money out of an ATM.
Rosie’s Sidekick, 2610 N. California, 773-697-3000, rosiessidekick.com. Mon-Sat 11 AM-8 PM; Sun noon-8 PM. Cash only.