The Roma (restaurant)
Submitted by liz on Wed, 2014-11-12 11:42
Note: The Newberry Library holds the personal papers of author John Drury.
THE ROMA, 117 North Clark Street
The Roma was not built in a day. It is, on the contrary, the oldest Italian restaurant in Chicago's theatrical district. Signor Virgil Nottoli, the proprietor, even goes further and affirms that it is the oldest Italian restaurant in the downtown district. Picking up a pencil, he will write: five years at State and Monroe Streets, two years at State and Congress Streets, four years at Wabash and Congress Streets, and eighteen years at its present location, 117 North Clark Street. That makes a total of twenty-nine years — more than a generation.
The reason it has lasted so long may be easily discovered in its first-rate Italian-American cuisine. Signor Nottoli takes a personal pride in his dishes, true restaurateur that he is, and is always willing to point out some of the more delectable items that his brother, Signor Frank Nottoli, who is chef here, prepares in the kitchen. The a la carte dinner menu is a veritable happy hunting-ground to those fortunate persons who consider eating one of the fine arts.
Here, you may partake of that choice Italian entree, veal scallopine al Marsala — tender veal covered with mushrooms and an appetizing sauce. But if you want to taste the specialite de la maison order spaghetti a la Roma. Only Signor Frank knows the secret of preparing this highly pleasurable viand and the sauces that give it its distinctive appeal. Another specialty of Signor Frank's is chicken a la Cacciatore, served in hunting style.
The Roma clientele is interesting and cosmopolitan. Among some of the frequenters are Robert Herrick, the Chicago novelist; Rosa Raisa, the opera singer; John ("Bathhouse John") Coughlin, picturesque alderman of the First Ward and poet laureate of the city council; and Georgio Polacco, the opera conductor.
The Roma also gets its share of public officials, being located across the street from the County Building and City Hall. Mostly these are judges, officials, and attorneys of the Italian persuasion. Theatrical people come here, too.
Maitre d'hotel: Virgil Nottoli