Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Best Business Lunch in Chicago at Gene & Georgetti
11 a.m.–midnight, Monday through Saturday.
By Lee Barrie and Cindy Kurman
Story originally appeared in StreetWise Magazine
Nowhere in Chicago is a restaurant’s history more laid out for you than at Gene & Georgetti. This venerable Italian steakhouse, at the same location since its founding in 1941, lives in the heart of Chicago’s old Italian neighborhood and its legacy shines in the smiles and laughter of its many regular customers.
Owner Tony Durpetti proudly displays a magnificent two-wall mural of his old neighborhood at Franklin and Grand—complete with Gene & Georgetti in its original form. In the mural you’ll see a small, seven year old boy standing in front of the restaurant’s door. The little boy is none other than Durpetti. Little did he know at the time that, years later as a returning soldier, he would meet Marion, his wife to be, who just happens to be the daughter of restaurateur Gene Michelotti. He also couldn’t have foreseen that many years after that, in 1989, he would take over the restaurant around the time his father-in-law passed away. He hasn’t changed a thing that’s important. Many of the employees have been there for decades. He takes good care of his staff and his customers.
A visit to Gene & Georgetti is also a tour of celebrity history. The walls on the first level (there are three levels) are covered with memorabilia of the many stars and political leaders who have visited this proud establishment: Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Barack Obama, Russell Crowe, Dennis Farina, Andy Garcia, Keanu Reeves, Daley One, Daley Two, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Tom Selleck. The list goes on and on.
Although you might think that Gene & Georgetti is simply a nostalgia trip, you’d be dead wrong. The restaurant remains as crowded as ever. It’s informal, boisterous and homespun with just enough formality to remind you that they are serious about what they’re doing. The wait staff is highly professional and efficient.
We visited for lunch recently—it’s a special place, indeed. There is a familiarity and friendliness that permeates the dining room. The staff is busy and in motion, but not harried. They know how to run this place and everyone does their job well. The décor is mahogany and white tablecloths. This is a come as you are restaurant. It’s one of Chicago’s great places for a business lunch or a place to take time out from a busy day to shoot the breeze over great food.
The menu is much more eclectic than you might think. Yes, Gene & Georgetti is known for its exceptional steaks, but you can have something completely different every day, if you choose. The menu is rich with time-tested dishes. The quality of the steaks is first rate: the meat (all Prime) is wet-aged in-house under very controlled conditions. It’s buttery tender and the flavor is rich and juicy. The Prime Rib portion is large and luscious.
But Gene & Georgetti has so much more going for it. Take the salads. They are perfected. The dressing is delicious but not overwrought, and the ingredients are as fresh as can be. Choose between the signature Garbage Salad, Julienne Salad, Caprese Salad, Chicken Caesar or Romaine Walnut Salad. Add some dry bleu cheese to any salad, if you wish.
The entrees are traditional Italian American. Classic. Flavorful. Choose from Chicken Vesuvio, Boneless Chicken Limone, Chicken or Veal Parmigiana, Filet Florentine, Veal Scallopine, Veal Marsala. If you’re in a seafood mood, choose broiled whitefish or salmon, Shrimp De Jonghe, Mussels Marinara or Breaded Shrimp. They are all excellent.
Pasta dishes are classic but not boring. Spaghetti and meatballs, Ravioli with Meat Sauce, Mostaccioli with Meat Sauce or Marinara Sauce; Linguini alla Marinara or Linguini with Clam Sauce (the best we’ve ever tasted), Angel Hair with Tomato Sauce and Basil.
Choose a side dish, big enough to share. There is fresh asparagus, sautéed spinach or broccoli, fresh broiled mushrooms, sautéed mushrooms and sweet peppers and more.
You’ll also want to check the menu for the daily specials. They include appetizers, sandwiches (amazing corned beef) and other varied items which offer regular customers some special treats. The desserts are rich, classic Chicago: Carrot Cake, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Cheesecake and Spumoni.
At dinnertime, you’ll find an even wider selection in every category. Along with the steaks, the broiled lamb chops are to die for.
Don’t forget to say hi to Tony for us. If he’s not too busy, perhaps he’ll give you a personal tour of his beloved mural. This place has aged as well as the steaks. Enjoy.
Note: DineWise is a weekly column appearing in StreetWise magazine. Lee Barrie is on the StreetWise board of directors and he and his wife Cindy own Kurman Communications, a Chicago-based public relations agency specializing in lifestyle, restaurant and hospitality strategic branding, marketing promotions, media relations and social networking. If you'd like your restaurant to be featured on the DineWise blog and in StreetWise magazine, please contact DineWise@kurman.com.
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