Monday, May 21, 2012

Chicago Italian Ice, Instead of NATO

1068 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL (between Carpenter St & Aberdeen St)

Mario's Italian Ice. Taylor street. This place is a mainstay of Chicago, and Taylor street itself. I have been coming here since I was a teenager-watching the neighborhood shed the Jane Addams Homes (a token building still holds on- there is talk of turning it into a museum...) and don expensive townhouses and trendy restaurants. I found myself there this weekend, rather than in the midst of the NATO summit protests.

Each spring I wait in anticipation for this gem to reopen (they close for the winter), dreaming of the watermelon Italian lemonade (Italian ice) with chucks of watermelon and lemon rinds. The perfect taste of summer and childhood memories. So many memories circle around this place.

I can picture the cars lined up on a hot summer night while my high school friends and I clamor to join the long queue that forms late in the evening. We are all moths trying to make our way to the brightly lighted counter obtaining the nectar, the essence of summer.

I remember heading over there for a treat after Italian mass at The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii with Don's (my boyfriend at the time) mother- a lovely Italian momma that took me under her wing to introduce me to all Italian-American- her pastas, foccacias, desserts, Italian language and expectations. She treated me like a daughter throughout, even after her son and I parted ways. I'd go over to her house and together we'd cook and she'd continue teaching me Italian as only a mother can do. She was probably the reason I dated her son for as long as I did.

I remember heading there before the fourth of July fireworks one year when I somehow convinced my family that standing amongst what appeared to be the entire city, and then some, to watch fireworks was a good idea. The line on days like that is thick, but always worth the wait. A calm anticipation keeps order- I don't believe I have ever experienced pushing or shoving even though the three lines are never very clear. It is a place where, while waitng, you can chat with your neighbor who may be from anywhere- people come from far and wide.

If you've never been, you are missing out. Go there, now~ and try a watermelon (or a peach when it is in season). And while you're there, pick up a bag of lupinis. They are a fun addition and an acquired taste, but one worth acquiring.

Here's to summer!