After ten weeks of jumping around Chicago, the road ends with Gil Rosario.
Today, we conclude our tour of Chicago’s wards in the North Side's 48th, and Rosario is the grand finale. It’s only fitting. We timed this project to ask Chicagoans how Rahm Emanuel has done in his first year as mayor, and Rosario might know Emanuel better than anyone else we interviewed.
“He said, ‘Hello’ and I asked him how everything was going and he just said he was ready to have a dinner,” Rosario recalls.
Not overly dramatic, but it is something. And in a city of 2.8 million, let’s face it: how many have talked to the mayor? And, of them, how many had this same thought as Rosario:
“He was very short. That really threw me off,” laughed Rosario. “I guess a man of that position, you want to see that he’s seven [feet] high like Shaq or something like that. But, no he was cool. Very quiet.”
The mayor was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, Rosario says. Their brief conversation happened at Balena, a new Italian restaurant near the Steppenwolf Theatre, where Rosario is a server assistant.
“I brought water,” Rosario says. “He never got thirsty. That’s for sure.”
Rosario hopes one day to be serving up something with a bit more kick. The 25-year-old Uptown resident wants to move into the beverage side of the restaurant business.
“I’m trying to bartend, but our cocktail menu is a little advanced, so it’s going to take a while for me to get into that position. But I love it. I mean, the restaurant’s doing well.”
Let’s hope so. Rosario moved to Chicago from a small town in central Florida five months ago, looking for opportunity. He’s originally from here – the Old Irving Park neighborhood – but moved away in the second grade.
Besides a small area around his old neighborhood, “The city is pretty much new to me. I couldn’t recognize anything being back here, to be honest with you.”
Uptown is totally new to Rosario, and he likes it. He likes the racial, ethnic and economic diversity, and how close his place is to the beach.
“I realize that this particular part of the neighborhood is very quiet,” he says. “Coming [to Chicago from a small town] was definitely a transition, but this helped just because it wasn’t as hectic. It’s peaceful.”
Rosario feels less peace a few blocks south, which he says gets “a little sketchy.” But even father south – in Lakeview – that’s where he spends his evenings. He has to go there, he says, because there’s nothing going on near his apartment.
“There’s a lot of nice restaurants and different food options around here, for sure,” he says. “But there’s just not enough just nightlife in general. And not necessarily clubs, but just for a drink or something like that.”
Five months back in the city and he's already got a good job, an apartment near the lake and enough of a social life to be worrying about nightlife. And he's met the mayor. Not a bad start.
“When I first moved here, it was a little intimidating to just know how much people are with it.”
By that, Rosario says he means Chicagoans are intelligent, up on the news, cultured, go to festivals and art museums.
“I mean, there’s just, there’s so many little things that I did not know existed, to be perfectly honest with you, just because I was never exposed to that in my home town,” he says. “And I think I appreciate that the most: just being able to stay on my toes and have people teach me a little bit of everything of the stuff that I’ve never even heard of."
Well, we appreciate you, Gil Rosario. And so should the mayor.