Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back in the 'Hood

I’m sure you’ve heard me refer to Jack and Steve, the owners of dear Portia. Well, this week, Jack’s brother, Eddie, and his family are visiting from Pittsburgh. Wonderful people. I’ve known them for a long time.

Jack and Eddie were raised in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago which has always been the immigrant neighborhood. It’s close to downtown and dates back well into the 19th century. Back when they were being raised there, most of Pilsen residents were Eastern European. (Jack and Eddie are Polish and Slovenian.)

Now, almost all of Pilsen’s residents are Latino as it is still the immigrant neighborhood. I lived there during my first five years in Chicago as well.

Yesterday, we all met at a neighborhood Italian restaurant, Bacchanalia, where Jack and Eddie had been going for thirty years. I met them and their families there after work and it was really nice to be back in the old ‘hood.

I had about a ten block walk from the train station to the restaurant. First, I passed by the bakery where I used to get these incredible Mexican pastries.
It’s a good thing I moved away, otherwise, I’d be the size of a pregnant hippo.

Then, here’s the supermarket where I used to get groceries.
They have a nice meat counter where you have to take a number and wait for it to be called. (In Spanish of course). I’d always hope to get a number that wasn’t in the 60s or 70s. It’s hard to distinguish between sesenta and setenta among the mayhem.

I’d try to use my limping Spanish to make my request. I once got confused between libros (books) and libras (pounds) so I stumbled along saying, “I must require two books of chicken, no peeling, no bone. . . Please.”

I also liked their fake crab meat:
“I must require two books of crabs who imitates . . . Please.”

The place where I lived was just two blocks away. On the way home was this big Catholic church, St. Paul’s.

I went there once for Mass. However, the moment I saw one lone kid strumming a guitar to lead the congregation in the first song, I bolted.
I’m such a snot.

I’d forgotten how incredible the food is at Bacchanalia. And how friendly the place is. I was greeted by name at the door by one of the servers who’d been there for 30 years. Is that not just the neatest thing or what?

The staff gave us foccacia on the house. Then they brought us a platter of penne arrabiata, again, on the house. Then we ordered our meals.

I love their capellini with marinara sauce. It also has cheese in it but I don’t know what kind. Whatever it is, it’s good.

Eddie had a porterhouse Vesuvio with roasted potatoes. He gave me a bite. Oh, lordy it was incredible. Baby Eddie discovered bread sticks and was content through the whole meal.

He really is an incredible little guy. How many eleven month old kids can sit through a long meal? Most kids that age will have at least one meltdown or let out the usual brain-piercing pterodactyl screeches, but not this little one. He was just all smiles, nibbling away on bread sticks, strands of linguini and bits of cheese.

Afterward, we all came back to my place and gazed upon Chicago from the roof.
It was one lovely evening with lovely people.

Oh, by the way. Leftover capellini marinara in the middle of the night is a slice of heaven.


At 10:01 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

Mmmm...it all sounds so good.

And I remember those Mexican pastries--yummy! Yeah, it's a good thing you stopped bringing those in to work, too--or else I would now be the size of 2 hippos! *grin*

At 7:43 AM , Anonymous seachange said...

I love ALL the photos and your walk down memory lane!

Eddie sounds like a perfect 1 yr old. Wait until he turns 2!


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