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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gioco's, Chicago

Recently, I was invited to attend a due diligence meeting at a vendor's office in Oak Brook, IL.  I do not do very well at sitting for a day.  Even when the speakers are fascinating, my mind is wandering off in a million other directions.  But, the education is important so I go.  And, fortunately, Chicago is one of my favorite cities to visit.  Turns out Connie's beloved Red Sox were playing the White Sox the evening after the meeting.  Perfect.  We'd drive up together.  All the regulations are very strict about non-licensed people attending these meetings.  Basically, they can't.  They can, however, attend the dinner the night before.  So, I checked on the price.  Astronomical.  For that we could go to our favorite restaurant and have a lovely romantic meal.  So, I skipped the grip and grin meal and Connie and I had another incredible meal at Gioco's

What's the story on Gioco's?  He took me there the first time we went to Chicago together.  It's an old speakeasy on the near south side.  1300 block of South Wabash to be exact.  It's rumored to have been an Al Capone hangout. There's a back room with a bookcase/door.  Fantastic party room, but more on that later.  From our first visit, I loved Gioco's.  Food, fantastic.  Ambiance, hard to beat.  Service, incredible.  I wish I could remember exactly what I had that evening.  I can say that over the six years I've known Connie we've had several meals there and it's always been tremendous.  I can remember various dishes like the wild boar sauce or the carpaccio or the perfect steak, but there were others equally good that have faded into the mists of yesterday. 

When it came time to plan our wedding celebration, we had a dilemma.  Either we could have a party and invite 300 of our closest friends and get to spend maybe 30 seconds with everyone or we could invite our families somewhere for a weekend.  Let's see.  30 seconds with 300 friends or a full weekend with those we love the most.  Our families won.  We went through the list of our favorite cities.  The requirements:  Centrally located and easy to get to since we had folks coming from Indianapolis, Boston, Orlando, Charlotte, Athens (Georgia,) Durham and Cape Cod.  Great dining.  Lots to do.  Public transportation had to be good or we'd spend a fortune on schlepping folks around.  There were going to be about 25 of us, after all.  Chicago won out.  My first call was to Gioco's.  Could they do the big dinner.  Absolutely, and in the party room with the bookcase/door no less.  Perfect. 

I know the food was great that night.  But, what I really remember about the food is having the best calamari I've ever had.  Perfectly seasoned.  Tender. Amazing aioli sauce.  There were other wonderful dishes, but the calamari was the superstar.  Gioco's did a perfect job. 

Now, Connie laughs at me because when we plan to go to an old favorite I start thinking about what I'm going to order...  Calamari was the first item on my list.  We got to Gioco and were seated in a new  location - right by the open kitchen.  How much fun to get to watch the prep!!!  Connie kind of had his eye on another appetizer but I was set on the calamari.  He didn't even remember having it at our wedding celebration.  Our waitress recommended a red wine since they were out of the Pinot Noir we wanted.  It was perfect for the meal.  We typically split an appetizer, pasta and entree.  It's more than enough to fill us up and we're not dealing with leftovers in a hotel.

The calamari came out.  Now, don't you wish my camera hadn't run out of batteries...  Me too!!!  Perfection on a plate.  It came with two battered and fried lemon slices.  And, some fried sage.  And, crispy rosemary.  Beam me up, Scotty!!!  We gave this a five. 

Next course, bucatini with a shrimp and tomato sauce.  Probably my least favorite of any dish I've ever had at Gioco's.  The pasta totally overwhelmed the sauce.  The sauce itself was a bit insipid.  The shrimp were well cooked.  We gave this a three.

On to the entree.  A lamb shank with borlotti beans and orzo.  In a red wine/tomato sauce.  The waitress wasn't divulging any secrets but my guess would be tomato paste, red wine, thyme, garlic, celery and carrots.  Cooked to perfection.  The lamb fell off the bone.  The orzo (which I've never cared for before) was cooked beyond al dente and was perfect with the beans.  The beans and sauce, well let's just say they were amazing. 

No room for dessert and I had an early morning meeting so we skipped the coffee and headed to Oak Brook.

We'd give Gioco's a five on a scale of one to five.   

Here are some photos of our wedding celebration.  You'll see the wonderful party room Gioco's has.  Keep an eye out for the bookcase/door :-)

My mom in deep conversation with Connie's sister, Barbara

My brother, John, finds something very amusing!

Brother, Ken and his wife Sherry (bar in the background)

Brothers Matt, John and John P (he's legally a stepbrother but he's a true brother of the heart) with nephew Tom tucked in behind Matt

The bookcase again with Connie's sons, Matt and Greg

Connie at the bar with daughter-in-law Kara.

Me with brother, Matt

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