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Chicago Johnny's Giardiniera: Coming Soon to City Delis and Groceries

 "Chicago Johnny," aka Josh Downey, transformed his love for giardiniera into a business.
"Chicago Johnny," aka Josh Downey, transformed his love for giardiniera into a business.
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CHICAGO — We've got home-brewed beer, boutique coffees and now craft giardiniera.

Josh Downey lives in McHenry, but for the last year he's been fighting to bring his homemade giardiniera to the city's groceries and restaurants.

He found a vendor to mass-produce his signature recipe, Antognoli & Company at 1800 N. Pulaski Road, and launched a Kickstarter campaign in December to try to raise the money needed to make his first batch. But his efforts were stymied by city regulations and cash shortages, and in the interim months, things looked bleak.

Then, at the end of February, the red tape that had kept him from selling his hot peppers within city limits "fell away."

"I got the trademark in, I got the business license, I got everything I need, and I've got the product," he said.

He even quit his day job.

Now he's trying to spread the word about his product "the old-fashioned way," spending his days driving batches of Chicago Johnny's giardiniera to grocery stores, delis and restaurants in Chicago and the suburbs, where he's already got 12 stores carrying it.

On Feb. 20, he got his first batch of 100 cases of pint jars, and by Friday he'd mowed through half of them, between delivering samples and filling online orders.

"I'm excited. I didn't think it would take off this quick," he said. "Now I run into people who've seen the jars all over the place.

"It was a lot of sleepless nights, but now there isn't anything holding me back."