20 March 2007

Lost City: Chicago Edition: It Takes an Italian Village

The Berghoff Memorial Blog, which continues to remind us with regularity that Chicago and all the world now lives in a world without The Berghoff—the Windy City eating institution that closed last year—now reminds us of happier news: The Italian Village lives. Proof that not everything in the once gritty Loop is new new and shiny and soulless.

Imagine the kitschiest family restaurant in Little Italy, then pump it up a few sizes. That's Italian Village. There are cheesy fake frescoes on the wall, twinkly lights on the ceiling and the captains wear tuxes. The Capitanini family has been holding court on W. Monroe for 80 years. The third generation is now running the works. A recent Chicago Sun-Times article revealed a few tasty historical tidbits: during World War II, the restaurant changed its name to Alfredo's Village, to avoid association with Mussolini; some of the herbs and vegetables used in the cooking come from the family garden in River Forest; and the Capitaninis produce a line of sauces carried by Whole Foods.

It's been a while since I've been to Chicago, but I well remember a meal my family had there before catching Bernadette Peters in the musical version of "The Goodbye Girl." A very memorable experience, grand and corny. The musical? Don't ask.

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