Dining out, Roseland-style

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Dining out in Roseland came under two headings. There was actually eating out in a restaurant, which was something generally done with the family, as in after mass on Sunday or on Dad’s payday or in celebration of a family event. The other type of dining out was the more casual “hanging out” with friends in a favorite local snack shop or restaurant.

Local fine dining in Kensington centered around two restaurants: Pesavento’s on 115th and Parise’s on Kensington. These places had tablecloths and that qualified them as “fine dining” in young Roseland eyes. Of course, after mass on Sunday when Dads felt like treating the family, there were other options.

Fried chicken was a specialty in Roseland, and we had a number of choices primarily based on where you lived. For those people heading west of Michigan Avenue, Mundo’s Venice Inn was the go-to spot. East of the “Ave” (Michigan Avenue), Jolly Inn on 115th Street was well-known for their fried chicken, which they sold in a bucket long before Colonel Sanders did. I should mention Roseland’s Original Buckley’s Plantation at 119th and State Street, which became Roseland’s first KFC.

From chicken, let’s move on to Pizza with a capital “P” because pizza was a staple of the Roseland diet. There’s always plenty of mention made of Giovanni’s on 111th just west of the Ave. Giovanni’s provided many job opportunities for Roselandites including some of my family members. I remember one of my sisters telling the story of John Sigonfredo, who owned Giovanni’s, telling a couple of woman customers who had requested knives and forks that God would have given them knives and forks instead of fingers if you needed a knife and a fork to eat pizza … How things have changed!

Nino’s, now near Cicero and 111th, was the other favorite place off the Ave for great pizza. I remember a couple of dates there where I was lucky that my dinner companion ate two pieces and I got to eat the rest of the medium cheese and sausage pizza with my pitcher of beer. I don’t know if that was a good enough reason, but I married that woman.

Now to “the” pizza place of the Kensington/Pullman neighborhood: Ken and Dick’s Cocktail Lounge and Pizza at 114th and Front Street. This place is a common denominator in conversations with women because it was off the Ave and very romantic due to its low lights. This was the first hangout for many young adults of the neighborhood who would bring their date to Ken and Dick’s head into the bar to meet up with friends.

Traverso’s at 156th and Harlem, part of the Ken & Dick’s family, carries on the tradition of serving fine food while being a great place to hang out. When the weather permits, the patio is a great spot to sit and relax, especially if it’s a karaoke night. Many Roselandites go there just to get their “Roseland fix” because chances are they will run into someone from the old neighborhood.

Mama Vesuvio’s East in Palos Heights is another place where Roselandites gathering to talk about the good old days.  Krapil’s on 113th Street between State and Michigan was well-known and still has a location across from Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on 111th Street in Worth.

Quite a few people liked hanging out at places right on the Ave like the State Sandwich Shop, Toni Restaurant and Snack Shop, Snacktime Coffee Shop, and the Coffee Pot and Rainbow Grill. Gately’s Peoples Store had a restaurant in the back of the second floor with mini-hamburgers, and Kresge’s, Woolworth’s and Neisner’s all had food counters as was the custom with five and dime stores.

Toni’s (I know, I thought it was “Tony’s,” too) was where a lot of Vietnam era people did their late night hanging out. You could always expect to see someone you knew having a post-party BLT with fries and coffee.

Later in the ’60s and ’70s, there were a couple of places that rated as fine dining that were still part of Roseland. While some of us headed downtown to impress our dates with real fine dining, Club Allegro was a great place to go for many of us, and some of us, me included, held our wedding reception there. Chuck Cavallini’s Steak House was another Roseland favorite. The fanciest, of course, was Tony DeSantis’ Martinique in Evergreen Park.

One place outside of Roseland that started a lot of conversation was Phil Smidt’s. That alone was the name of this one-of-a-kind place that closed in 2007, but they were known for fantastic frog legs and perch. Going to Phil Smidt’s was a real treat for many Roseland families because, well, where else were you going to get frog legs?

There was another place outside Roseland that I remember as a lot of fun from when I was a kid. It required a ride out to Chicago Heights, and it was quite a ride, too, because there weren’t expressways. It fascinated me so much, and I couldn’t believe it years later when I found a place on the North Side that reminded me of it because the pizza place had a nickelodeon.

That was Svoboda’s in Chicago Heights. I’m sure we went there so my dad could impress some old-country friends of his. Wall-to-wall nickelodeons equaled an awesome place for a kid. There were player pianos and orchestrators with many instruments and pianos with animitronic dolls playing the instruments. One nickelodeon had a tuba that was up high and you had to throw your quarters up into it to get it to play.

Dining experiences often fill us with memories. The ones we had in the Roseland area will always be special as they were our introduction to “American” food.  Today, people rave about great dining at the many Italian restaurants the Chicago area has to offer.  For us Italian-Americans, great dining Italian style was something we appreciated because we had it every day — at home!

Copies of “Petals from Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman and Kensington Neighborhoods” are available with prompt first-class delivery at $20 + $5 s&h. The book has sold more than 600 copies since it became available a year ago. Roselandites who have bought my book are very excited to have their memories brought to life. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have provided so many fond memories of Roseland. My book is also available at D & D Foods, 1023 S. Halsted, Chicago Heights and at Bookie’s New and Used Books, 10324 S. Western Ave, Chicago.

Contact me by writing to 11403 S. Saint Lawrence Ave., Chicago, IL 60628; calling me at 773-701-6756; or emailing petalsfromroseland@gmail.com.


About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.

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  1. Enjoyed your Roseland dining article, however, don’t know how Panetti’s chicken missed the mark. It was served at all the wedding and events. We are still trying to recreate the recipe so if you are able to find and reveal the recipe, what a glorious day for our family to enjoy our most favorite chicken once again. (We have heard one of the daughters that worked with her parents now lives in Northwest Indiana).

  2. When Susan wrote about Panetti’s chicken I immediately thought of the beef sandwiches. It’s been over 50 years since my last Panetti’s beef sandwich and I haven’t been able to find one that comes close. The crunchy bun, the gravy, the peppers and the beef. How I miss it.

  3. JoAnn Bonato Rodi

    Just awesome reading all the nostalgic items from Roseland! Thank you for doing this and bringing back such wonderful memories! God bless you!

  4. I drive through Roseland and Pullman every chance that I get. The memories are wonderful. I took my mom and dad (in their 90s) to the Pullman Labor Day celebration and it was an unbelievable celebration of people of all religions, races and colors. A Chicago Policeman who was kind enough to speak with me said, “I would love to take a picture of this group of people and send it to Washington to show the world what Chicago is all about.”

  5. Does anyone remember Chicago Girl cookies? Were they also from Panetti’s? My grandfather used to buy them for us when we were kids.

    • I sure do remember Chicago Girl cookies and absolutely loved them. They were from Panettis. I am trying to fin a bakery where I can get some as I would love to share these with my children and grandchildren. Any one know any place in the Chicagoland area that has these scrumptious cookies??

  6. Donna, thank you for your interest. I’ve been told that Chicago Girls or something similar by a different name may be available at a couple of different places: Caputo’s, Mariano’s, Freddy’s Pizza & Deli Cicero. You can also try any Italian food store or deli you hear of or pass by.

    Good luck!

    BTW I don’t know if you remember ciopette, but I wrote a column on that with photos.


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