[From Il Terrazzo Carmine's website]
I just finished a post about my current visit to O’Hare, mentioning in passing my fondness for the O’Hare Hilton’s Italian restaurant, Andiamo. Not the greatest, but comfortable. Perhaps it’s worth pointing out in contrast that two nights ago, we celebrated Gail’s birthday a day late at our favorite Italian restaurant in Seattle, Il Terrazzo Carmine. It is a continuing puzzle why we don’t eat there more often.
Sometimes we get there twice in a year, once for Gail’s birthday and once for mine. Sometimes just once. You may recall my post in March 2009 about our visit for my own birthday. (Well, non-birthday, since I didn’t have one that year, but I did get a year older, and that’s when we went.) That’s the time we had dinner in the bar, since we were too late to reserve a table, and Dale Chihuly dropped in to join the celebration.
This time Dale didn’t show. We had a good evening nonetheless. We always do. The menu never changes. But there’s always a risotto of the day, always yet another risotto served as a side dish with one of the dinner specials, always a soup of the day, a fish of the day, another three or four appetizer and main dish specials. Lots of variety. And the constant menu is plenty large. I’m invariably drawn to the cannelloni or rigatoni as an appetizer, to the rack of lamb or veal chop or pork chop or steak as a main dish. And then I hear the specials and want the soup, or the fish, or some other concoction. This time I went with the risotto special, with pancetta, and then the peppercorn steak with shoestring potatoes. Those potatoes are the greatest, one reason I can’t resist the steak.
For dessert, Gail was brought tiramisu with a candle in it. Then our (fabulous) waiter brought a tray with all the desserts to view. I resisted the profiteroles, difficult to do, and went with the pear tart, served with berries.
Let’s not forget the outstanding bottle of wine that accompanied the meal, a 2006 Brunello di Montalcino from Casanova di Neri.
I’m hoping this time we won’t wait another year for our next visit to Carmine’s.
I’m in Chicago now. Well, sort of, O’Hare being within the city limits though far from the city in any real sense. As some readers of Ron’s View know, I come to the O’Hare Hilton every November in order to attend the annual meeting of an organization whose secretary-treasurer I happen to be. We always have dinner at 7:30 on the Sunday evening before the meeting at Andiamo, the Hilton’s Italian restaurant, and a restaurant I have become oddly fond of, the odd part being that it isn’t exactly a great restaurant, but it’s now a familiar one, and a comfortable one, with pleasant wait staff. There’s also a sports bar attached, always filled with fans, or travelers with nothing better to do. Since it’s a Sunday in November, NFL football is featured. Hockey too.
This is the ninth year in succession that I’ve made this trip, and with a couple of other stops at the O’Hare Hilton along the way, I’ve come to feel very much at home here. The guest rooms. The furniture. The meeting rooms. The lobby. And best of all, the views, out toward the parking garage on one side and the terminals on the other. The last few years, I’ve had the parking garage view. This year, it’s the terminals. Either way, you get to watch planes land and take off, since we’re surrounded by runways.
It’s been warm and windy hereabouts. At dinner tonight I learned that those of us who flew in yesterday had a pretty bumpy go of it on the way down. We were warned on our flight to expect the same, but it didn’t seem so bad at all. We headed way east over Lake Michigan, then turned back over the city a little to the north of the Loop, this being around 4:20 or so this afternoon, with the sun low and glaring, making it difficult to pick out sights. I could see the Navy Pier and the Hancock Tower. I couldn’t make out Soldier Field to the south, where the Bears were hosting the Lions. A few minutes later we were down. Long taxi to the gate, off the plane, down the escalator, down another escalator to the basement tunnel system, under the road, over to the Hilton basement, up to the lobby. You gotta love it. No need for a coat. Not that there would have been one anyway, the temperature being close to 70 degrees, but when you’re here, you would never know. You have to force yourself to go out in order to get some fresh air, which I did after dinner, as I always make it a point to do, so I can stare at the parking garage and breathe in the jet fuel fumes for a bit.
What now? I suppose I’ll read. I caught the end of the Bears game before dinner. That’s another of my traditions here, imagining myself a Bears fan for an hour or so. I missed the highlight of the game, Devin Hester returning a punt for a touchdown for the 12th time in his career. I was on the phone with Joel when they replayed it and I voiced the thought that I should get a Hester Bears jersey tomorrow if I can find one. Once I get home, I would feel pretty foolish about getting it. I suppose I won’t.
Tomorrow I’ll need to get up early for the meeting, what with the time zone change, then I’ll head back over to the United terminal and be out of here less than 24 hours after arriving. Too bad Gail couldn’t come. Three years ago, she joined me. I must have written about it at the time. We came on a Friday, stayed two nights in the Loop, visited the Art Institute and other favorite places, then headed back out to O’Hare Sunday afternoon. Oh, and we saw Lang Lang at Orchestra Hall. Yes, I know I wrote about that. Two years ago she was here too, but only because we timed our return from France and Italy to coincide with the meeting, allowing me to fit it in as part of that trip rather than going to Seattle only to have to head back east a couple of days later. Last year she had her own trip at the same time. This year, um, I don’t know. Gail, why aren’t you here? She did point out this morning that she’s not that in love with hanging out at O’Hare and eating at Andiamo. That must be the reason.
Maybe next year though. That would be fun.
I thought I was done, but one more thing. There’s this great column in the NYT that I rarely remember to read — The Haggler. A couple of weeks ago, in it, David Segal made a plea for hotel room doors that don’t slam.
During a recent visit to the Omni Shoreham in Washington, the Haggler was awakened by the blast of a neighbor leaving his room at 6 a.m. And the racket never ceased, because at hotels — surprise! — people enter and exit rooms throughout the day and night.
A bit of research shows that hotel doors slam shut in part because they’re cheap to install and in part because of liability concerns. Owners worry that the doors won’t fully close, which could lead to thefts and other crimes, which could lead to lawsuits.
But, obviously, a mechanism exists that closes a door fully and quietly. The Haggler encountered it this summer at the Hyatt Regency in Albuquerque. The question is why these mechanisms aren’t far more common.
Amen to that. I gotta tell ya, the O’Hare Hilton is ground zero for hotel door slamming.