Italian Adventures around Chicago

The Italian Expo was in Chicago this past weekend, so my Grandparents, parents, and my Aunt all came into town to check it out! They took a bus down with the Indianapolis Italian Heritage Society and stayed at a hotel downtown. I was beyond excited they were coming, not only because I missed them, but because they would get the chance to see where I am living and a glimpse into my life here in Chicago! They aren’t exactly thrilled that I live away from home, so it was nice for them to see how great it is here and how close it really is….just a bus ride away!

I met them downtown on Saturday morning and we all walked over to Navy Pier for the expo. It was a pretty nasty morning out and it was a little rainy, but we still decided to walk and enjoy the city. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but it definitely was not what I had imagined. There were no decorations, everything was plain and there were no activities. You just walked in a big square from table to table. The only good part about it was the food sampling, but I wasn’t exactly hungry for Pasta at 11:30 AM. OK, that’s a lie, I am always hungry for pasta, but I felt guilty indulging mid-day. My phone was still broken at this point in the day, so I didn’t snap any photos, but there really wasn’t anything to show you, so no worries!

That night we enjoyed a nice dinner at Phil Stefani’s steak house, 437 Rush. After dinner we went to the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock building, on the 96th floor. I had never been there and was really excited to do something “touristy” in the city! My cousin Nick is like a walking Chicago information handout, so he knew all about it, including the most random facts all about Chicago, and I mean ALL about it. There would be a random building on the side of a road and he would know what the history was.

Sunday morning my family and I went on an adventure around Chicago in search of all things Italian! Our first stop was at D’amato’s bakery and Bari, an Italian grocery. They were both old Italian establishments here in Chicago and were very cool. I love being able to walk into a grocery and see all of the amazing foods I was able to enjoy in Italy right HERE in Chicago!

After traveling to D’amatos and enjoying some filled cookies we ventured on over to Taylor Street, which is where Little Italy is located. It was so unfortunate to see how much it has changed. It definitely does not resemble a little Italy, but we did get to enjoy lunch together at the original Rosebuds! It was a little chilly out, but it was a gorgeous Fall day so  we decided to sit outside. My Grandpa, per usual, ordered the calamari for an appetizer. I used to be such a picky eater (I still have my issues, but am a lot better!), but my Grandpa convinced me to try calamari one random night and I realized how much I LOVE IT!! Fried deliciousness. I can even eat the kind with tentacles.

Speaking of tentacles, my Dad and I enjoyed staring at the baby octopus on our final Italian adventure around Chicago when we traveled to Caputos in Elm Wood Park. I didn’t get a picture with my phone, but I think my Dad did. Unfortunately I do not have it -so I will spare you the visual. Anyway, he told me how his Grandmother, who was from the Calabria region in Italy, used to make stuffed octopus for dinner. I’m not talking about little tiny octopus. This thing was huge. The thought of it made me extremely happy that he did not acquire a taste for that cuisine growing up!

I love the grocery store and could have spent an entire afternoon at Caputo’s. I must get that from my Grandpa because I think going to Caputo’s was what he was most excited about the entire weekend! Hopefully I can go back soon and pick up supplies for my next kitchen adventure. They had an ENTIRE aisle dedicated just to pasta. Literally, my heaven. I was proud to say that I only walked out with one item and that was only to come home and provide Laura with a good laugh. I came across this chocolate roll that I had completely forgotten about eating while we were in Italy. I am sure it has an equivalent here in America, but since we ate anything and everything while in Italy, this chocolate/sweet roll was among our favorites. I must have blocked it out of my memory, because I completely forgot about ever eating anything like this. Anyway, I had to buy it for her. Good thing it has been over 2 weeks and it isn’t gone yet….we are making progress in self-control!

This past weekend I did not have any kitchen adventures, but I did have a pretty big adventure in my life! I decided to run a 5k this past Saturday for The Race for the Cure! I was so proud that not only did I finish the race, I ran the entire 3.1 miles without stopping (3.1 miles in 32 minutes isn’t too shabby since I can’t remember the last time I ran more than 2!). It was so much fun that I have already signed up for two more marathons! As my sister said, it’s time to grow up, so last weekend I chose BOOBS over BOOZE and spent my Saturday morning feeling great, energized and running (instead of in bed!).

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