July 10, 2013
Hundreds of thousands of people should make it to the Taste of Chicago, but I won't be one of them.
Random Sweat Transfer.
You're stuck in a teeming sea of humanity at the Taste, all those hot, sweaty bodies, when someone bumps into you, their exposed arms and/or back drenched with sheets of their own perspiration. You've been slimed.
That's RST. Merely typing the words makes me gag.
"I call it the 'Waste of Chicago,'" writes Facebook friend Jerry V. "How much overpriced food can you gorge yourself with in one day instead of just finding a nice local eatery to enjoy a meal with friends. Or am I being unkind?"
That's why I came up with my own Taste of Kass, and asked readers on Facebook to recommend their favorite joints free of the heartbreak of RST. So here are my favorite tastes.
If there is one work of art in Chicago area dessert, it has to be the dark chocolate sorbet at Mancini's, 1111 Lake St., Oak Park. Simple. Mysterious. Devastating. Provocative. The essence of Italian chocolate.
Think of cold chocolate in concentrated form. Anyone who tastes it emits an involuntary deep roll of the eyes. It is the 50 shades of chocolate sorbet.
I purchased a gallon and brought it home for a Fourth of July barbecue and six women all but passed out on the deck it was so good. If you have an argument with your wife, don't get her jewels. Get the dark chocolate sorbet instead.
"The flavors all come in liquid form from Italy, not powder," said proprietor Al Mancini. "That's why it has the good taste."
And Freddy's Pizza, 1600 S. 61st Ave., Cicero, might just have the best ice on the planet. I've already recommended that owner Joe Quercia, famed soccer analyst, become the White House chef. And don't forget the pizza and entrees. A chocolate ice combo with any fruit ice is preferred. But eat it slow. Otherwise, you get the Freddy's head, or "brain freeze."
Another top ice can be found at Teddy's Red Hots, 737 Plainfield Road, Darien. Fruit ice is perfect with a Chicago dog.
Of course another must-taste is the Original Rainbow Cone, 9233 S. Western Ave. If I don't mention it, the entire Southwest Side will get angry.
But you can't have ice cream without first having breakfast. And where can you find a decent breakfast for only about five bucks?
Billy Goat Tavern on Lower Michigan. Best breakfast deal in the city. For about five bucks you get a big toasted Kaiser roll, real eggs, real cheese and real bacon. And coffee.
No double caramel latte with soy milk. No snooty "protein" wraps. How much bacon do you get?
"Three, four slices," said proprietor Sam Sianis.
What else you want?
My all-time favorite comfort food meal: the superb veal saltimbocca alla Romana at Bruna's Ristorante, 2424 S. Oakley Ave., with a side of linguini aglio. The first time I had some, my luncheon companion was a fellow named Daley who'd just been elected mayor of Chicago.
Owner Luciano Silvestri still runs the place, and insists he offers the best spaghetti alla carbonara in the city. I never doubt Luciano.
Why is your veal saltimbocca so great?
"Because we use the best veal. The freshest ingredients. It's tasty. I don't know what else to say," Luciano said.
My friend Old School, who helps me with this column, has his own comfort food. The chicken and waffles at Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles, 3947 S. King Drive.
"Their best stuff is their fried chicken. You can taste the crunchy crust even when it's cooked into a giant omelet," Old School says. "It's the crunchy and the sweet and the salty."
Others I can't live without: Palermo's on 95th, 4849 W. 95th St. (Palermo's special, extra crispy, extra sauce and Tony Calderone's Nona's Cake); Capri Ristorante, 324 Burr Ridge Parkway, Burr Ridge (everything); Los Gallos Taqueria, 4252 S. Archer Ave. for the famed beef soup called carne en su jugo or "meat in its own juices." I can't explain it either.
Greek Islands, 200 S. Halsted St. or in Lombard for sea bass and dandelion greens — ask if they have any of the big, salted sardines from the island of Mytilene.
And Volare, 201 E. Grand Ave., where owner Benny Siddu knows I'm crazy for his peppers and sausage and order them almost every time I'm there because, well, they're the best peppers and sausage in town. Benny loves the veal shanks. Me, too.
Steaks: my working lunches, Gene & Georgetti, 500 N. Franklin St. (steak vesuvio, medium rare, martini with bleu cheese olives) and The Chicago Cut Steak House, 300 N. LaSalle St.
When I take my family out for steak, we go to Golden Steer, 635 Roosevelt Road, Forest Park, for big killer steaks and amazing French onion soup. The restaurant hasn't been redecorated since Jackie Kennedy married Ari Onassis, and that's OK.
Another place Old School and I have lunch is Sayat Nova, 157 E. Ohio St. I go for the spicy Armenian sauteed lamb; Old School orders the kebabs.
Across the street is Lavazza Cafe, 162 E. Ohio St., for coffee and the mocha orange coffee milkshake, the "blendissimo." That's like drinking an Orange Milano cookie.
There are so many great places I can't possibly include them all in one column. But I can tell you this.
Enjoy. And please, beware. Don't get RST.
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