Martino’s Restaurant, Chicago, IL
When we finally got around to visiting Martino’s Restaurant on the north side of Chicago, I had already discovered that there were thirty eateries around the world called “Martino’s” in one form or another. But the idea of trying to visit all or most of them didn’t occur to me til we had actually dined at that first one in early October 2012. We are most curious now, to see how many we can viist in our lifetimes and if the experiences will be as memorable as this first one was.
What started as an overnight trip to Chicago with the sole purpose of experiencing Martino’s grew into three days and two nights because as I was looking at things to do the afternoon we were to arrive, I noticed that the Cubs were playing their last series of the season at home the week we were going to be there. So I looked on StubHub and found two tickets right behind the Cubs dugout for the last game of the year. I booked them and we extended our stay a bit to accommodate that. So before I tell you about Martino’s please indulge me a bit as I give you a flavor of the rest of this mini-vacation.
We left on Tuesday morning, the 2nd, and arrived at the Inn on Early around 11:00am to find our host, Bonnie Rawitz, waiting to greet us. After checking in and freshening up a bit, we headed towards Lake Michigan where we planned to do a walk on a nice trail they’ve created along the shoreline. Before we made it those five blocks to the lake, we stopped for lunch at Nookies, an interesting little place on Bryn Mawr just a couple blocks from the inn.
After lunch, we did indeed do a pretty long walk south along the lake and we ran into Jah Duke, an artist from Ghana, and we were taken by the painting shown (left) because of the wine and because of the baseball, two big parts of this vacation. As you can see, we now own the painting. After the lake walk, we headed west into the city for a jaunt through the north side neighborhoods. We popped into Lady Gregory’s, an Irish pub we ran across for an ice tea (for Carol) and a Guinness (for me). We stopped at a couple liquor stores and a Jewel Osco to look for wine to have at the inn and we found a nice Cabernet. We made our way back to the inn and opened it on the patio while relaxing on a beautiful autumn afternoon.
On that first evening, we planned to have dinner at Broadway Cellars, a wine oriented restaurant just a three-block walk from “home”. We also wanted to check out Moody’s, another Irish pub right next to the restaurant so we stopped there before dinner for a glass of their house wine. It was a nice ending to a great first day in Chicago.
Next morning, we went for another stroll along Lake Michigan before heading downtown on the Red Line. It was misting rain all morning but we enjoyed the lake walk as well as cruising around the city center before stopping at State Street Pizza for a slice of one of the best cheese pizzas we’ve ever tasted. After lunch, we found our way to an el station and rode the Red Line north to the Addison Street station for the Cubs game. The weather had improved a bit by game-time and we kept dry the whole afternoon. The Cubs won that last game of the season against Houston, the last game the Astros played in the National League as they switched to the AL in 2013. It was a walk-off base hit in the bottom of the ninth by Bryan LaHair that turned the trick and coincidentally, I was able to catch a ball thrown by LaHair before the game as the Cubs tossed autographed baseballs into the crowd to say “thanks” for the support throughout the summer.
So we finally got around to the purpose of the trip on Wednesday evening…dining at Martino’s. We arrived around 6:00pm and as Carol started taking pictures of virtually everything including the placemats, the owner was understandably curious and sent our server Marlena over to see what was going on. I showed her my driver’s license and she then understood the interest in all things Martino. Not sure if it was because of that or if this is just their modus operandi, but we were treated very nicely all during the meal. Since we ordered the deep-dish pizza, the Martino Special, and it takes 45 minutes to prepare, we started off with mozzarella sticks with the Martino marinara sauce, which was unbelievably good.
The pizza was also really excellent…perfect really…great crust, great sauce (also homemade) and great cheese. I have a feeling that this Martino’s is a place we’ll visit again. The great Martino family recipes that owner Rose Battaglia has retained and the new ones she’s added from her own family make this neighborhood restaurant one of the jewels one can find tucked away in large cities. It’s a destination worthy of the journey.