Sweet Home Chicago, Part Three: Gene & Georgetti

It’s been nearly a month since I posted “Sweet Home Chicago, Part Two.”  Two research presentations, lots of academic writing and a trip to New York City have occured in the meantime and took me off my blogging path, but I’m back on track now.  I was intending to only have two parts to the last Chicago/Wisconsin trip, but when I spent time in this restaurant, I knew it was worthy of its own post.

Gene & Georgetti logoGene & Georgetti is located at 500 North Franklin Street (at the corner of Illinois) underneath the “L” in downtown Chicago.  The restaurant’s Web site says “come, eat and enjoy.”  I went, boy did I eat, and how I enjoyed it!

Walking into Gene & Georgetti is like entering a time warp to when the establishment was founded in 1941.  The first thing you notice when you walk in is a huge autographed poster-size photo of Lucille Ball.  Then you start to take in the dark red and rich wood interior dotted with pictures of other celebrities who have eaten there.  Instead of looking at those pictures, however, I spent my time observing the characters of the present. 

I sat tucked away at a corner tableclothed table, between the policemen at the bar who just finished their beat and, two tables over, a couple, the female of which looked like she could be on “Real Housewives of Chicago,” if there is such a show.  The servers, dressed crisply in vests and long white aprons, chatted with the bartender in their native Italian tongue while watching a new season of  baseball on TV.

Gene & Georgetti is pricey — that’s why I went for lunch — but the quality and quantity of food is worth it.  I was hoping to get both steak and seafood so I could sample both specialties of the house.  Shrimp De Jonghe, a traditional Chicago dish, consists of shrimp swimming in a pool of garlic, sherry and butter drenched bread crumbs.  The server was kind enough to let me order off-menu and get an appetizer version of the dish.  You know it’s good when you can feel the garlic and butter ooze from your pores!

I knew I would be full after the shrimp (and did I mention the deliciously warm, crusty bread and real butter?), so I didn’t want to order a high-priced cut of steak.  In fact, I opted for the Chopped Steak with Mushroom Sauce.  Good choice, because I barely got through half of it.  Served on its own plate, the steak was as big as my hand!  It came with two homemade sides: hand-battered onion rings and thick sliced potatoes that had been fried.  Each took up one half of the platter on which they were served.  I enjoyed a nice chardonnay with the shrimp and a delicious chianti with the steak.  There was NO room for desert!

My lunch at Gene & Georgetti was one of the most relaxing meals I have had in a very long time.  The servers didn’t rush; at the same time, they always seemed to materialize when I needed something.  The food came out piping hot, was delicious and plentiful. 

My only complaint, if you can even call it that, had to do with the valet parking.  First of all, it’s wonderful that the restaurant offers complimentary valet parking — a luxury that is certainly welcome due to the high price and rarity of parking in the area.  I couldn’t find it, however.  I saw two employees outside (whom I later found out were the valet staff), but they were sitting and talking to each other and I assumed they were on a break.  I parked down the street, illegally but briefly, to run into the restaurant and find out if I had been misled about the parking.  The response, I have to say, was a little snippy — apparently I should have known the employees sitting and talking were the valet staff.  But I tipped big as I turned over my keys and all became right with the world.  The young man who moved my car even brought in my cell phone that I had left on the front seat.  Kudos for the extra effort, and a big “thank you” to Gene & Georgetti for a delightful experience!

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