Warning: This blog may make your mouth water, it may make you hungry and it may cause you to gain 3-4 pounds.
I don’t find it ironic that I as I sit down to write this blog, I am drinking a glass of my favorite vino (New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc) and eating a bowl of pasta. Normal. I have to say, if you need to whip together a weeknight dinner after a long day of work, my argument will always be in favor of Italian. Saute some onions and garlic, simmer some ground beef, add some spices, a few cans of stewed tomatoes and tomato paste (or a jar of sauce…eek! I know, I know), boil Trader Joe’s rigatoni and it’s guaranteed to be a quality meal. Oh and don’t forget the wine. Then you really feel like an Italian.
Now that John and Jackie Cherone (pronounced shi-row-nee) are probably cringing, let me move on to the main course of this Ann Written Note. For the past couple of years, Rick and I have had the pleasure of getting to know and sharing a few meals with John and Jackie Cherone. Brother to Tony Cherone, Rick’s mentor and dear friend, Johnny (I feel like I can call him that now…you will understand why in a bit) is the epitome of a true Chicago Italian. The accent, the frosty white hair, the sense of humor and most importantly, the cooking skills. Did I say cooking skills? Oh, I meant, the “next top Italian chef of Chicago” cooking skills. My first meal with him was at Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush and I remember being impressed and intimidated by his incredible knowledge of Italian food. I think I mentioned a few words about ravioli or pasta sauce and quickly realized that despite my American Italian decent and passion for food, I should shut the hell up. So, I did. And became a great listener and admirer of his Italian food stories…and his storytelling overall for that matter.
Fast forward a year or two (I am so my mom…I can’t remember dates or events to save my life), Rick and Johnny were enjoying a cigar and one thing leads to another and we MAY have an invite to the Cherone household for an Italian dinner. You see, getting an invite to a Cherone Italian dinner is not easy. In fact, Rick made it very clear that getting an invite to the Cherone Italian dinner was a bucket list worthy event. Well, ladies and gents, a couple months later, The Ueno’s got the invite. To the Cherone annual Ravioli Sunday. Not just an Italian dinner. Their annual Ravioli Sunday Dinner. OH YEAH BABY! We were in! Sss-ccccc-oooo-rrrrr-eeeeee! I’m Italian. I love food. I love wine. Perfecto!
On Sunday, November 6th, we packed a bag and walked a few blocks to the Ogilvy train station, Chicago Northwest Bound to Crystal Lake, departing at 12:30, arriving at 1:48pm. John picks us up and all I remember from the car ride were the words, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” as he advised on how to eat the meal he and Jackie had prepared. I have always believed that visual storytelling is the best kind, so I did my best to capture this 4 hour marathon meal in a visual way.
Ravioli Sunday, November 6th, 2011 Menu
This was one of my favorite courses. A calamari steak (never had a steak of calamari before!) cooked on a special grill with an amazing garnish of capers, tomatoes, garlic, onion and EVOO
Okay, this was also one of my favorite courses. I have yet to have better pasta e fagioli in my life. The perfect consistency, noodles cooked al dente and oh, the cheese. The cheese…
Otherwise known as the main event, the flavor party in your mouth, what Italian ravioli and meat should taste like. This course was superb and naturally, I was in the clean-plate club.
Yes, there was more. The chicken piccatta was a personal favorite (and this picture does NOT do the flavor any justice whatsoever).
Shots of espresso with vanilla ice cream…a little relaxer for your stomach.
The desserts were also incredible! Assorted pastries (homemade biscotti…wow), lemon ice, caffe
A huge thank you to John and Jackie Cherone and their dear friend Hope who helped prepare this once-in-a-lifetime meal! Rick and I will never forget this day and even though I had to run an extra 10 or so miles to work off this meal, it was worth it! Oh and who says you have to go to Rome to get great Italian food? I say jump on the train and go to the Cherone’s!
PS – Here are some more prepping pics for your viewing pleasure 🙂