How Melrose Park Became the Inspiration for the Melrose Pepper

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

Feature photo: Melrose Peppers “sautéed in olive oil with a little red sauce.” | Photo and recipe: Proud Italian Cook

The Chicago Tribune recently published an eye-opening story about Joseph and Lucia Napolitano, a couple who traveled to Ellis Island from Italy in 1903 before settling in Melrose Park.

They left, according to the Tribune’s Amy Bizzari, because the soil in their native country had been depleted from social decay.

Among the belongings they brought with them were the seeds of the pepper plants that “once grew wild in the volcanic earth of Nocera Inferiore (a small town about 12 miles southeast of Naples).”

Planted in Melrose Park’s fertile soil, the seeds grew into peppers whose tenderness and sweetness demanded a name of their own. So, the Napolitano’s called them Melrose Peppers.

“Each pepper is about 4 to 6 inches long, with thin skin and, despite the resemblance to hot chiles, zero heat,” Bizzari writes. “When harvested young and green, a Melrose pepper tastes like a super-sweet, green bell pepper; when fully ripe and brilliant red, these beauties are all the sweeter and richer.

The peppers have since become “the most beloved fruits of the local Italian-American backyard garden.”

Read more of Bizzari’s delectable profile of an Italian American staple here.

And when you’re done, stake out some Melrose Peppers (we hear they’re in peak growing season) and follow these recipes by Proud Italian Cook (click here). VFP

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