Paul Bartolotta has had success pretty much everywhere he's ever worked. Starting in Milwaukee (where he and his family continue to run a series of popular restaurants) to Chicago's Spiaggia, and for the last several years, as the namesake proprietor of Bartolotta Ristorante Di Mare at The Wynn in Las Vegas. In Chicago last week for some of his beloved Korean kalbi - and to talk about the status of Vegas in the wake of the recession - we sat down for a frank discussion about what business has been like in the desert for the past year.
Nov. 17, 2010
Nov. 16, 2010
What did I hear about you living under a bridge for a while?
Yeah, for a few months. It was great. The Ashland Avenue bridge over the river, by Ashland and Fullerton. It’s actually two bridges because there’s Ashland Avenue and then Webster Avenue, so it’s kind of an L bridge.
When I was in my late teens, probably, one of my friends took me down to this—it’s basically like a huge building under the bridge. The bridge used to go up and down, and they would have these huge concrete ballasts, and they needed these enormous rings for all the gears and stuff. So I would hop a little fence and then had to scramble down this little hill and then go around this fence and do some climbing, and then do some tricky climbing, and then you get into this place.
There’s like this one cavernous room, absolutely huge, and then a bunch of little rooms off of it, and then another fairly cavernous room. It was a huge space, and I started hanging out there in my late teens. It was popular with graffiti artists, ‘cause it was a totally private place for them to paint. Somebody had rigged up electricity, so there were lights in there and stuff.
Very few people ever seemed to go there. I guess me and two of my friends camped out there for a few days, maybe just for fun. I don’t even remember.
There is a new NPR rap done by a kid out of Oregon. It's name-drop central and it is burning up the blogs at NPR.org. It's very clever, but we at WBEZ think that it is a bit trite and overdone. White geek rapping is so 2007. But we could be wrong and the kid gets points for using the All Things Considered theme song for the beat. What do you think? Are we just cynical big city a--holes or is this awful?
I'm not a reviewer. But I know some people that are. So in the next couple days, be on the lookout for some objective reviews from music-scene luminaries. You are welcome, kid.
Nov. 16, 2010
As I reported many months ago in Chicago Footlights magazine, the hip-hoppin' Q Brothers are returning to Chicago Shakespeare Theater with "Funk It Up About Nothin," their version of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." GQ and JQ, who still call Chicago home, will return to Chicago Shakes Jan. 21-Feb. 13 as a warm-up for a two-month Australian tour. The co-writers and co-directors first devised the show —their second rapping Shakespeare—in 2008. But even before coming back to Navy Pier (home of Chicago Shakespeare Theater) they'll take "Funk It Up" to the Joseph Papp Public Theatre in New York for one performance, Jan. 8. The Q Bros.' shows have enjoyed particular success in London and at the Edinburgh Festival as well as Chicago.
Yesterday, Howard Stern returned to his Sirius talk-show and took a call about the WGN/Kevin Metheny news from last week. Stern talked about his experiences with "Pig Virus" and quickly summed up the story of WGN and Metheny's rocky tenure. He also went on to say that the best stuff he read on the story was from long-time Chicago media columnist Robert Feder. He even spells Feder's name for his audience.
Not only name-checked, but spell-checked by the king of all media. If there is something better in the world, please let me know. As I had a small hand in Mr. Feder's blog, I can die now. By spell-checking Feder, he really said Kaufmann.
Listen to the audio clip from above. Two of my favorite things in the world: Howard Stern and Robert Feder.
Nov. 16, 2010
What a debacle. Over the past few weeks, the folks at the Michelin Guide have been talking about how they would announce their Chicago stars on Wednesday, November 17th. It would be impossible to speak with the Guide's Director, Jean-Luc Naret, until after Wednesday, I was told, since the announcement was so top secret - even the restaurants wouldn't be notified until he called them himself that day.
So much for secrecy.
Apparently, the folks at Amazon don't keep Michelin release dates a high priority on their shipping calendars, since a Yelper got wind of the results yesterday, thereby forcing Michelin to send out a press release this morning, announcing the starred restaurants. They are:
3 stars: Alinea, L.20
2 stars: Avenues, Charlie Trotter's, Ria
1 star: Blackbird, Boka, Bonsoirée, Crofton on Wells, Everest, graham elliot, Longman & Eagle, NAHA, NoMI, Schwa, Seasons, Sepia, Sixteen, Spiaggia, Takashi, Topolobampo, Tru, Vie
It's bad enough the organization allowed the leak.
Nov. 16, 2010
It may seem like an even exchange: weary David Axelrod comes home to Chicago, sees the fam, and starts gearing for 2012, while David Plouffe, the Obama campaign’s brainy strategist, finally takes a public White House post.
But part of makes these two work so well is that they complement rather than mirror each other. And right now Axelrod needs a break while Plouffe comes in relatively rested. Frankly, this may be the best move the White House has made in a while.
Senior adviser to the president was never the job Axelrod wanted – he initially said he wouldn’t take it, then said he wouldn’t stay more than a year and, now, two years on and a devastating midterm election later, we all wish he’d listened to his gut. Gaffe-prone of late, Axelrod needs to come home to Chicago to rest and re-charge.
It’s important to remember that, long before he became the founder of one of he most successful political consulting firms ever, he was a journalist. And the singular quality that good reporters share – and have no doubt that Axelrod was a very good reporter – is the ability to listen. Second to that is the ability to distill.
Today, superstar chef Grant Achatz will rightfully take his place as the king of all Chicago food. The chef at Alinea has been awarded three stars by the famed Michelin guide. Now, you've probably read about this Michelin phenomenon all week on your food blogs and online news sites. Chicago is only the second American city to be Michelin-ized. Yes, it's the same company that makes tires. They also judge food (that they hope you'll drive to).
Grant Achatz received three stars - and that's just the beginning of the Achatz takeover. Here are some other reasons why he is now king.
- Achatz has a new restaurant opening in 2011 down on Fulton Market. It is pioneering a new "ticket" system, where instead of reservations, you buy a fixed priced ticket (over $200). This ticket will be hotter than a Bears playoff home game.