Little Italy, Big Love.

What you are about to get is half of the story. Sorry, today just did not go as expected. This will not be a post about the delicious bakeries or sandwiches we scoured Taylor street to find, or about the Italian Ice stand that seems to have been plucked out of an Atlantic City boardwalk postcard. This post will most certainly not include conversations with butchers or glamorous pictures of Italian meats and cheeses (well… maybe a few), but rather this post will tell the story of how an 80 year old restaurant and a father’s birthday made our hearts swoon and once again declare our love for University Village Little Italy.

We had dinner plans at Tufano’s for Matt’s dad’s birthday. This was the reason we were headed down to Little Italy in the first place. We had BIG plans to do some serious blog scouting along the way. Alas, whether it was the cold rain or the fortress of blankets and pillows we could not make our way out of, there was no hope of leaving the house before 2. After a few errands, we arrived on Taylor ready to dive in only to be quickly reminded that it was indeed Sunday, and indeed everything in Little Italy closes early. D’Amato’s- closed at 2. J.P. Graziano’s- CLOSED on Sunday. Son of a….Ok, no fear…we got this. We know Conte Di Savoia (or as we normally refer to it, the Italian Market where we always park) is open…we parked right in front of it. Walk in- closing in ten minutes. Seriously? We scramble around and pick up a few things…can of imported tuna, canned whole tomatoes for sauce, taglietti pasta…out. What next? Drive around. We made our usually loop, admiring the beautiful homes, passing the idea around of living here or there then remembering we were close to Publican Quality Meats. Hooray! Success!! We don’t get down here often so being conveniently close was a bonus. A half hour later, we walked out with a dozen eggs, one bunch of asparagus, a half of a chicken and a bit of pate. We talked to the butcher about lonza and were convinced we needed some…it literally melts in your mouth. We also learned about Guanciale and my requirement to purchase and cook with this when making carbonara. Serious success! Back on track, we head to Tufano’s.

Matt’s dad, Barry, says his favorite Italian restaurant in the city is Tufano’s. He used to write a column for the Chicago Tribune covering high school sports, and on late nights, post game Barry often found himself at Tufano’s for dinner . This is how it became Barry’s favorite Italian restaurant and how we came to eat there Sunday night. We were excited. Not only had we read about its history in Chicago, but I have a sort of a…mmm…. infatuation with Italian food. Game on.

Upon being warmly greeted, Matt bravely asked the bartender if we could take photos for our local food blog. I have to take a moment here to acknowledge that we really have no idea what we are doing and we have zero idea which way to go about this. So, I have to laugh when we asked about taking pictures for our “local food blog”. Asking a restaurant who has been around for 80 years, a restaurant who cooked for the likes of Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, and Al Capone, a restaurant who sticks by the Blackhawks through blood and ice, asking a restaurant like this to give you permission to take photos for your nerdy little food blog…well it can be intimidating. However, Matt got the job done and was quickly whisked into the kitchen by Joann (manager, granddaughter of Joeseph Di Buono and Teresa Tufano) happily and without hesitation. By the end of the evening, Joann became our friend…graciously bringing us throughout the restaurant to show us pictures of family, tell us stories of past guests, and mostly glowing as she talked about her family, her food, and her love of Tufano’s. If we could all be so lucky to share that kind of spirit with everyone we meet.

The meal itself was exactly what you would expect from a restaurant that has been around since 1930… honest, traditional homemade comfort food. Mostly southern Italian fare…lots of garlic, olive oil, red sauces, chicken with lemon, meatballs, picantes, parms…you know the deal. There is a good vibe about the restaurant. Could have been the friendly staff or the neighborhood families at every table…could have been how Joann pinched my chin and told me I was beautiful…maybe it was the added delight of a celebrating a birthday with my husband’s family whom I adore…whichever the case, Tufano’s delivered. Special hello to Joann for making our first trip so memorable. We look forward to making Tufano’s a part of our family for years to come. Oh yeah, Barry got a pretty awesome t-shirt, too! Happy Birthday Barry!

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