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We wish a shop like this would open on our own block: With its simple, fresh selection of specialty and everyday goods, Logan Square's Half Italian Grocer (named in honor of owner Nancy Kemp's heritage) is a way to avoid the post-work rush at the supermarket and still put together a fantastic dinner, fast.

One night last week, we stopped at the cash-only spot to pick up the ingredients for an impromptu comfort-food feast for friends: house-made tagliatelle ($4.50 a pound), a jar of hearty vodka sauce ($5), a head of garlic, a loaf of fresh bread and, the star of the show, the spicy "South Side" sausage ($4.29 a pound). The bottle of red wine that made it into our bag goes without saying, but we'll tell you anyway: Half Italian stocks a nice mid-price selection of vino, plus local beers like the venerable Half Acre.

At lunchtime, we would have opted for a prosciutto sandwich ($6) from the deli counter, which also stocks temptations like creamy pasta salads, pickles and olives, house-made meatballs, single-serving tiramisu and more.

The name may be "Half," but the flavors are full-on.

Half Italian Grocer, 2643 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-227-5600 or

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