So I took a very cold run this morning through Little Italy. You know, those mornings when the sun’s at a degree higher than mercury? Chapstick and mittens day….And while I only saw five people (and one dog) on the run, I ran through a very alive and resilient community – Little Italy.
You can’t write about Little Italy without writing about where to eat and where to buy good food. Little Italy is filled with many gems almost all of them on the famous Taylor Street.
While these gems have a deep rooted history in Little Italy the geography of the neighborhood has changed quite a bit. As my Uncle Tony said, the “cross-town highway that ‘kilt’ the old neighborhood.” And it did indeed cut the neighborhood in two, significantly isolating the western half. Why? Well, it was due to the fact that “hiz honor” adamantly pushed for construction of both the highway and UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago). If you want to be a real Chicagoan call UIC “Circle Campus.”
A lovely little island of taste and smells on the western end is Ferrara Bakery - a 100+ year old institution. YUM. Look for Nella behind the counter and ask for a tall espresso and a fresh filled canolli. Now that’s a Little Italy breakfast for ya.
After your coffee make sure to visit the Catholic churches of Our Lady of Pompeii and Holy Guardian Angel. For lunch, walk down to Pompeii Bakery and try the strudel. No, it’s not like a danish. It’s kind of like a calabrese, which is kind of like a turnover… ah, never mind.
Or take a stroll over to Mario’s Italian Ice. Here, I heard, stands at a location where a certain crowd used to buy bathtub gin back in the day. I also heard the shop sold shots right out the front of the two-flat. After the repeal of prohibition they went main stream and started selling truly the world’s best Italian Ice. Yeah, I don’t know if that story is true.
If you want to see how to eat a “sangwich” check out the stance taken by the patrons at Al’s #1 Beef on Taylor (the real one and only). Oder your Italian Beef sangwich either sweet, hot, wet, or all three. Not to be too cryptic this would be your choice of sweet peppers, hot giardiniera, and/or bread dipped in “the juice.” I’m a sweet hot myself. So called. Booths? Tables? Ha. How about a nice counter to lean on? The “Chicago stance,” according to “Man v. Food,” is how this meal is to be consumed. The stance is similar to how you would stand as if you’re leaning forward trying to take a picture of something that’s very far away. Hands right up to your face, feet slightly past shoulder length, leaning a bit forward.
You know, I’ve been to my homeland of Italy many times, and never seen “Italian Ice” or “Italian Beef” marketed. Hmm… then again, I never order “an Americano” in the states.
Finally, if you have a business partner or lady friend you’d like to impress you cannot go wrong at RoSal’s. It’s not my favorite restaurant JUST because they have a photo of the D’Ambrogio family in 1925 (Giovanni, Lena, Eddie, Marie and Tony – he’s the baby in the dress). No, RoSal’s has some the best food and service ever. You can order what you want whether it’s on the menu or not. Just talk about it with your server. Want shells instead of linguine? Just ask. Want the chicken scallopini but made with veal and with the tomato basil sauce? Just let ‘em know. Or ask for their advice. I also believe their bread is from DiMato’s, a very good bakery…
What was your first impression of Chicago? The iconic skyline? The patchwork of neighborhoods? These four Chicagoian’s share their thoughts about the second city’s impact. Please feel free to share you thoughts and stories below!
Hey, Tom Sawyer is back. It’s been a lot of fun letting friends and colleagues paint the relo fence for me, but I’m committed this year to getting back into the swing of things. So I’m starting (among other things) a new series on Chicago neighborhoods, called – My Kind of Town (no, that’s taken)… Chicago Neighborhoods (descriptive, yes, but lacking)…… Wild Chi… – No, that was that show on Channel 11. Anyway, I’ll call it “Cool Chicago” or something like that. I’ll let you know.
I’ll get to the hinterlands eventually but I’m going to start by writing about where I run. Those who know me know I run, mostly because I love pizza. Pizza and wine. Love pizza and wine. Especially Aurelio’s pizza (their wine, not as much). Anyway, my love of this combination forces me to run to keep at my high school football weight. And when I do run, it’s usually quiet, early in the morning, and I go by so many cool cool cool things that I always think “wow I should write about this.” So I will.
And as an added attraction, soon enough you’ll get to meet some of the folks who I take improv class with at Chicago’s Second City. What is that? 50 years of funny? Aykroyd, Belushi, Radner, Farley, Fey? Ever see Blues Brothers? Well you’ll have to wait (for the explanation of what 2nd city is, why Chicago is the second city, all that, you’ll have to wait). But….with the magic potion of Aurelio’s and wine I will coax them into performing some “Chicago style improv” in, around, and about some of the famous (and not so famous) landmarks and sites in the city of the stinking onion, aka Chicago. That’s the school of “yes, and.” But we’ll get into that later. Yes. And….
Yes! And I never leave Tom Sawyer far behind – If you’d like to chime in with some comments on a Chicago neighborhood, bring it on!
As Beatle George Harrison sang on Revolver, there is no escaping the Taxman’s ever vigilant gaze. Just ask Richard Parrillo whose 2012 property tax was the highest in all of Chicago’s nine counties. At $246,780 his property taxes were higher than the median home sale price of July 2012.
Most of the top properties reached their title thanks to construction or renovations. Karen Citow, owner and founder of Reach Yoga, built a new 11,894-square-foot home in Glencoe causing her property taxes to triple between 2010 and 2011. The new home placed her in with the other top ten.
While most people gawk at such prices the number probably didn’t come as a great surprise to the homeowners or at least should not have been out of the blue. Baird & Warner’s Katherine Malkin told Crain’s, “None of them have made money because they’re ignorant to what costs are.”
Eight of the ten on the list appealed their taxes due to their astronomical prices. Only two were successful in lowering the price – the rest were not so lucky.
Fun Fact: John Lennon wanted to be suspended upside down from the ceiling while he was spun around a microphone to sing the track on Tomorrow Never Knows. George Martin quickly showed him that the same effect could be created without the acrobatics.
Here are some comments from Baird & Warner’s own Tom Gill.
Mary Ellen Podmolik wrote an interesting article last June for the the Chicago Tribune: titled The Wal-Mart effect on home values. Below are pieces of the article along with our comments.
Feelings on the retail juggernaut Wal-Mart are highly controversial and extremely mixed from person to person. Some people love the low prices and location convenience often associated with the store. Others strongly oppose the negative effect that it has on local business, as well as the decline that comes with wages. There are several Wal-Marts in the Chicago area, including one near the West Loop Gate, only a few blocks from Baird & Warner’s corporate office.
However the effect a Wal-Mart has on a housing market surrounding it is not something that brings forth a clear answer. Maybe people dislike having one around because the increased traffic and noise, yet maybe people would prefer one nearby because the prices and ease of doing their shopping. University professors and brothers Devin and Jaren Pope decided to find out.
Their research of over 1 million home sales between 1998 and 2008 showed that homes within a half mile of a Wal-Mart increased between 2 and 3 percent, while homes up to a mile away from a Wal-Mart increased around 1 percent. In dollars this translated to about $7,000 and $4,000 respectively.
The results that were uncovered were not very surprising. It was a minor shift one way, and one which I personally would have guessed. With the downturned economic situation, it makes sense that more people would put a small value on lower priced goods that were so close nearby.
Mary Podmolik of the Chicago Tribune wrote an article about buyer and seller markets nationally. Below are some excerpts and some of our comments.
If you had to guess, what city would you say is the top buyers market right now? If you said Milwaukee, you’d almost be right. The number one buyers market in the U.S. is Chicago Illinois, followed by Milwaukee according to Zillow Real Estate. This list was compiled after calculations which looked at sale-to-list price ratios, number of days a property spent on Zillow listing, and finally the percentage of homes on the market with a price cut. Specifically in Chicago, the top five buyer communities were: Downers Grove, Northbrook, Palatine, Buffalo Grove and Orland Park.
A buying market refers to one where buyers have more bargaining power, thanks to listings lingering longer on the market and sellers being forced to cut their asking prices, according to Zillow. Meanwhile the top 5 sellers markets are near the west coast, with three of the top five being in California. San Jose, is the top sellers market.
Because home prices are low, this a great opportunity for those looking to get back into the housing market in and around Chicago.
Perri Knight, an agent in our Goldcoast Office, recently did a great bit of sleuth work to figure out some background on our great city’s neighborhood names….
What’s in a name? Sometimes, quite a lot. Sometimes, it’s all you have to go on. We all know how important our own names are to our identities, what about the name of a place? Or a building? Naming rights to stadiums are big ticket items. As Chicagoans, we were up in arms when the Sears tower became the Willis Tower, some vowed never to use the new name at all. People associate the name of a place with how they feel about it.
Although I grew up in Cleveland, I left after high school and returned many years later to discover that natives refer to buildings in downtown by their names—not their addresses. In other words, if you have a meeting with Sue, she may tell you she in in Key Tower, or the Halle Builidng, or the Hannah Building—two names much too similar for comfort in my opinion. If you don’t know where those building are, you were in trouble. We do that in Chicago too, but most of our prominent buildings are visible in the skyline so it’s a little easier to pinpoint where you are and where you need to go.
I recently had a friend visiting from out of the country who wanted to make sure that we saw everything there was to see on the “Magic” mile. Of course, Mag Mile can be magical but “The Magnificent Mile” is the accepted moniker, coined by Arthur Rubloff. And what about the neighborhoods that define our city? Several bear names of those that lived there or helped to found the area. The land which serves as Wicker Park was donated by brothers of the same name. Logan Square honors a former congressman and Civil War hero with that name. Some neighborhood names stem from the language native to those that first settled there. Pilsen is actually a city in the Czech Republic. Bucktown—this is my favorite—got its name because the largely Polish inhabitants had a habit of keeping goats. Guess what you call a male goat? Yep, a “buck”.
When you’ve spent some time in Chicago you realize that these names don’t just describe a geographic area but most people will say they can describe who lives in each neighborhood. I’ve noticed though that people tend to stick within their neighborhoods-especially if they grew up there- so their ideas of what other areas are like and who lives there can be skewed. As a non-native Chicagoan, I’ve had the pleasure of living in several different neighborhoods and I can easily say that every single one has wonderful, unique attributes that I enjoyed while I lived there. If you are just coming to the city, do your research but most importantly, send some time out in different neighborhoods—don’t rely on one friend’s advice, no matter how well meaning. Chicago has a depth and diversity of neighborhoods that I think is unmatched and it’s worth taking the time to explore them.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal this morning, “Michael Jordan has put his longtime home in Highland Park, Ill., on the market for $29 million, according to the company marketing the listing, Luxury Portfolio International.”
Check out the stats:
more than FIFTEEN bathrooms and
The famous MJ led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championship titles, has “23″—his jersey number—engraved on the gates of the property.
Katherine Chez Malkin of Baird & Warner has the listing. At $29MM, it is believed to be the most expensive property ever listed in the State of Illinois, or the midwest for that matter.
The trib recently published an article in their business section by Mell Monroe - a Bronzeville resident and owner of the Welcome Inn Manor, a bed-and-breakfast on S. Michigan Avenue. His passion for Chicago so intrigued me I gave him a call. I’m happy to say that his excitement for, and commitment to Chicago’s south side is incredible. I’ve asked him, and he has agreed to, share some thoughts in upcoming blogs.
As he points out in the article, while Chicago is the No. 2 tourist destination worldwide, and although Chicago ranks in the Top ten for attracting global travelers with money to spend – “Where I live and work, this kind of consumer is a far and few in between. I set up my business in a black community on the South Side, which sees little of the $11 billion these tourists spend. “
The article then discusses Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent announcement that $2 million into marketing Chicago to increase tourism & boost revenue by 50 percent by the end of the decade. This translates to at least $15 billion in tourism revenue for the city of Chicago, precious little of which will make it to the city’s 30-plus black neighborhoods and their entrepreneurs, according to Mell.
He also includes a call to action for Chicago residents - “All we need now is a progressive chamber of commerce and new leadership. No chamber will be successful without powerful business leaders committed to change and growth. We must recruit professionals with extraordinary experiences. Building a team that can work together on funding proposals and addressing crime and loitering as a priority is crucial to good business and a better quality of life.”
You can read the article here , and take a virtual tour of his B & B here. We look forward to hearing more from Mell!
Luminous Field in Millennium Park – Looking for something cool to do this weekend??
Hey Chicagoans – Visit Millennium Park and The Bean this month as it is transformed into” a digital canvas of light and geometrical form” with a cool and funky video/sound installation, courtesy of Chicago artists Luftwerk.
Dubbed “Luminous Field”, it will illuminate Cloud Gate and its surrounding AT&T Plaza every night from Feb 10-20th – Expect beautiful images & colors choreographed to music by third coast percussion!
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