Know Your Neighbors: Zach Cizek of Bollito’s

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Bollito's Founder Zach Cizek with his wife, Jessica, and their daughter, Millie.

By now you’ve become fairly familiar with this “Know Your Neighbors” section. You come here to read feature stories on interesting business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, philanthropists, etc. who all have one thing in common- they call the Oak Park-River Forest community home.

Today, we are putting a little flavor on this format in the form of Bollito’s Italian Sauce, a Minnesota-based company that sources its ingredients directly from Italy and sells the product right here in OPRF. Cue the timeless Disneyland boat cruise song, “It’s a Small World After All.”

We got the chance to speak with Founder/Owner Zach Cizek to learn more about Bollito’s, its mission to become THE condiment to put on Italian food (predominately pizza and pasta), and how you can be a part of this incredible story. Here’s a look at our conversation.

Pat for AOP:
Can you explain Bollito’s in two sentences?

Zach for Bollito’s:
We create condiments and sauces by sourcing the highest quality ingredients grown in Italy and throughout the Mediterranean. In doing so, we are developing the most delicious products designed to enhance the flavor of Italian food without overwhelming the dish.

What types of products do you have?

The one that started it all is the Calabrian Pepper Sauce, which is perfect on pizza. We also have the Pepperoncini Sauce, San Marzano Marinara, and plans to release a Calabrian Pepper seasoning in the near future.

From left to right: Calabrian Pepper Sauce, San Marzano Marina, and Pepperoncini Sauce.

How much do the products cost?

Each bottle is $6.49 in-store for a 5-ounce bottle. The real value is to purchase a Sauce Box which includes two 10-ounce bottles of the condiments and the marinara for $30, shipping included.

If I wanted to try it right now, where’s the closest place I can get it?

At the Whole Foods in the River Forest Town Center on Lake Street.

So you are familiar with the Oak Park-River Forest area?

Yes, definitely! I’m now living in St. Paul but I spent three years in Chicago working as an Outside Sales Rep for a medical devices company. During that time, I had plenty of opportunities to hang out in Oak Park after spending time at Rush or West Suburban Hospital. The charm, energy, and diversity of Oak Park reminded me a lot of where I grew up- the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul.

That’s awesome! We’re glad you felt at home here.

Totally. In fact, Bollito’s started when I was living in the Chicagoland area and our main distribution center is still in Chicago even though we are a St. Paul-based company.

A Bollito’s Sauce Box includes all three of its products shipped to your front door for $30 (shipping included)

Can you tell me a little more about the history of Bollito’s?

Essentially, my wife and I enjoyed this sandwich of the same name in Italy and became obsessed. When we came back to the States, we tried replicating it and realized it was the sauce that made it so enjoyable. We made a replica of the condiment, now our red Calabrian Pepper Sauce, and entered it into the Chicago Hot Sauce Festival in 2015. We ran out of product because people loved it so much and even won an award judged by some of the Chicagoland area’s best food minds.

You’ve been promoting your business a lot in the past month or so because you believe so fully in your product. You even started a Kickstarter campaign. What is the reasoning behind the campaign?

We’ve grown to the point where people really like the product and I can no longer keep up with the manufacturing component without compromising the integrity of our sauces. It is really important to me to be authentic about Bollito’s by continuing to source the same, high-quality ingredients, and make the sauces by hand. In order to do that, we need to increase capacity and efficiency, so the funds generated from the KickStarter will be put towards partnering with the right manufacturer.

Zach prepares a fresh batch of Calabrian peppers to be pressed.

So right now you’re doing everything start to finish by hand?

Yeah, if you can believe that. After we finish this conversation, I’m actually going to spend some time labeling for an order I’m already behind on.

I’ll let you get to it then. Thank you for talking to us, Zach!

Thank you for having me!

You can view a quick video below narrated by Zach to give you a visual sense of what the team at Bollito’s is all about. Before you do that, be sure to check out their campaign at KickStarter.com or visit the website at Bollitos.co.

If you are interested in being featured in a Know Your Neighbors article, email aroundoakpark@gmail.com and include your name & a brief summary of your story.

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