Saturday, December 19, 2015

Club Lucky

In order to talk about this, I need to tell a story.  When I was growing up in Michigan, there was a really good Italian restaurant one town over from where I grew up, Terry & Jerry's O Sole Mio.  It was so good, as a matter of fact that it was recognized in the Michigan Mobil Travel Guide (the Zagat Guide of the time).  It was a great thing because we got to know some really good Italian food, but it was also kind of sad because when the owners retired and it closed, there really was no other Italian restaurant anywhere close.  We have visited the few Italian restaurants, in the Mid-Michigan area and have been disappointed, so I decided to look in Chicago for an Italian Restaurant that was similar in style.  There are a lot of really good Italian restaurants in Chicago, I wanted to find a neighborhood restaurant that felt like a family run place with a good menu and really good food.  I had heard about Club Lucky in Bucktown, a while ago, a friend, also from Mid-Michigan, lived around the corner from it and really liked it.  A coworker recently recommended it as well, so I finally decided to try it out.  As it's located in the neighborhood, it's a bit off the beaten path, and unless you are going there, it isn't somewhere you will pass by everyday, so it's pretty easy to slip your mind.  Located on a corner, it is easy to find, but it is a block off the main drag.  Arriving there, I had a small annoyance.  I am a cyclist and I like to lock up close to where I am going.  There were no bike racks in the area and the street signs around the building had "no bike parking" signs on them and there didn't look like there were any other street signs on that side of the street.  I ended up locking up across the street.   Entering the restaurant felt like going back in time.  Club Lucky was apparently a dance club in the 1940's and they have seemed to have kept the style.  (The bar side of the club was also a hardware store that hid a speakeasy during prohibition). The entrance is in the lounge area and you have to walk through the lounge to get to the dining room.  I sat in the lounge, which has the same menu as the main dining room because I didn't want to take up a two top with just myself in a busy restaurant.  While I didn't dine in there, I did take a look.  There were booths on one side and two tops on the other with larger round tables in the middle of the room.  The floor was tile, the walls were wallpapered, and the furniture was wood.  Everything had an old style to it.  As I was eating, I noticed that the restaurant had a lot of regulars that the staff knew and many of whom could order without looking at the menu.  While the menu was pretty classic and I probably could have picked a classic Italian dish that was on the menu, I wanted to see the breadth of what they had.  I started things off in the lounge with a cocktail, The Pamplemousse, the French word for Grapefruit.  It started with Creme de Pamplemousse and mixed with it, Hendrick's Gin, St. Germain, Lemon, and a fresh Thyme garnish.  As might be guessed, the drink has a strong grapefruit flavor.  It was very refreshing and I liked it.
For my appetizer, there were a few things that interested me.  There was calamari on the menu prepared three ways, but they were all for two.  While I was interested in them, if I had ordered calamari, I wouldn't have had room for anything else.  I decided to go with an Italian classic, Sausage and Peppers.  The sausages were large and were served with Red and Green Peppers and Tomatoes in a White Wine Brodu (Vegetable Broth).  There were also pieces of garlic that were so tender that chewing was pretty unnecessary.  It was flavorful, the Italian sausage was spicy (although one was a little overcooked) and the vegetables were tender, sweet and flavorful.  It was also a pretty large serving which made me wonder how I was going to feel at the end of the meal.
The standard Italian menu is set up in four sections, the antipasti (appetizers), pasta, the entrees that aren't pasta, and dessert.  I knew going in that I wasn't going to get something from every section and while the pasta is supposed to be handmade every day and very good, I was interested in what they did other than pasta.  I was hoping to find something that wasn't pasta, but had pasta served as a side.  I succeeded.  I went with the Veal Francese, Breaded Veal Cutlets served with Mushrooms and Butter in a White Wine Sauce over Pappardelle Pasta.  I like veal in any case, but this veal was very good.  It was very tender and flavorful in the buttery wine sauce and there were a lot of very good mushrooms.
When I was ordering, I thought, I've ordered 2 orders of meat, I should probably get a vegetable, so i ordered a side of Broccoli.  What I didn't expect was to be served an entire bush.  It was very freah and green and lightly coated in melted butter.  It was also a lot bigger than I expected.  I did eat it all, but at this point, I knew that dessert was going to be an effort.
 Frequently with dessert, if a restaurant has a good Amaro list, I will frequently order an Amaro as a digestif.  As Amaro are Italian, it shouldn't be a surprise that they have a good Amaro list.  I decided to go with Averna.  It is sweet, thick, and has a gently herbal bitterness, with a caramel finish.  It went down very smoothly and went well with dessert.
While most people think of Tiramisu or Cannoli when they think of Italian desserts, and these were on the menu, the dessert that I chose was a classic in it's own right.  I went with Profiteroles which were filled with Housemade Vanilla Ice Cream, topped with Hot Fudge, and sprinkled with Powdered Sugar.  Profiteroles are basically cream puffs.  The pastry was light and airy, the ice cream was sweet, with a good vanilla flavor, and what more can be said about hot fudge.  I finished very full and satisfied.  I enjoyed my meal here and would definitely keep it in mind for classic Italian fare. 

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