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Valentine’s Day in Roseland

Roseland and Valentine’s Day are quite the combination when it comes to a nostalgic memory-maker. I recently was stuck in slow-moving traffic due to a persistent downpour and heard the announcer on the radio mention sleet. I felt a twinge of nostalgia and soon recalled a homecoming date with one Cindy Smith. We had gone to the homecoming dinner dance at the Sabre Room on 95th Street in Hickory Hills, and then we decided to head to Whistler’s Woods. (Or was it the spookier Bachelor’s Grove?)

I had just crossed 127th Street at Halsted Street when the right front tire on my dad’s 1962 Chevrolet station wagon went flat. The only thing I could do was pull into the nearby parking lot of Darvin’s Furniture store. The weather was a chilly combination of sleet and rain, which was perfect for parking in the woods but unbelievably bad timing for a flat tire during a date.

Curfew on the weekends was 11:30 p.m., so time was of vital importance. Another stroke of bad luck was that my dad didn’t have a spare tire in his car. On the plus side, however, there was a phone in the parking lot. I called my sister Jeanina, and it took my brother-in-law Bob about 45 minutes to get to us with his spare tire because they had been relaxing after putting their eight kids to bed.

He changed the tire for us, gave me a smirk when I told him where we were headed, and reminded me it was now 11:30 and time to get Cindy home. I had no choice but to cut our plans short and take her home for a 5-minute goodnight kiss until her dad started blinking the porch light.

Other than the Sabre Room, there were a number of restaurants throughout the Roseland/Pullman area that served as places to go for a date or dinner dance. For that matter, many of the places also served as venues for weddings, such as the Club Allegro, where my wedding reception was held in 1972, with music provided by Michael Avignone’s band (minus their bass guitar).

Club Allegro was a supper club on 117th and Halsted, and when I had my wedding reception there in 1972, it was managed by my late friend Terry Wronski’s aunt. It was a staple of the Roseland scene, and many bowling league banquets from Palisades Bowl were held there.

The first time I went to the Inglenook Restaurant on West 115th Street, my Cub Scout den mother, who was Russ & Ken Klimowski’s mom, drove us there to hold a fundraiser selling Jergens hand lotion for the scouts. We went so far west that, in my little mind, I thought I’d left Chicago. The next time I was at the Inglenook was when the family of my girlfriend at the time, Phoebe Bakker, invited me along for a Sunday dinner. It helped that I worked at Bakker’s Pharmacy, and her father, Elves Bakker, knew all about me.

The original Drury Lane Theater and Martinique Restaurant is another great icon of Roseland history. Located at 95th and Western, it was the foundation that eventually helped build Drury Lane Theater Oakbrook and Drury Lane Water Tower Place. The original Drury Lane, with its distinctive neon sign that was visible for miles, was closed in 2004 and demolished to make way for a Walmart. Tony DeSantis, who I met when I delivered prescriptions for his mother to their home at the Drury Lane/Martinique complex, passed away in 2007 at the age of 93.

The Beverly Woods restaurant at 11532 S. Western Ave. has been in existence since 1954, and its four large rooms have served as a setting for countless wedding banquets. If you are in the area, the buffet table still can’t be beat.

Parise’s and Pesavento’s qualify more as family dining establishments, and so does the Jolly Inn. A number of readers who grew up in Pullman recall that the Jolly Inn always was a Sunday stop for a bucket of chicken.

Ken and Dick’s on Front Street definitely was a “hangout place.” Giovanni’s on 111th Street, down the block from the YMCA, was another favorite haunt. I guess if I’m going to discuss memorable restaurants on 111th Street, I have to include what my sister once called “The Porcelain Kitchen,” because it always made for a very special dining experience — White Castle!

Contact CJ Martello at 1501 W. Belmont Ave. #708, Chicago, IL 60657; 773-525-7823; or cjfranoi@yahoo.com; Online: Roseland Roundtable on Facebook

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.