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TODAY

Tuesday, April 23

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Airbags

Readers looking for romance -- as the days get shorter and the nights get longer -- should embrace a Drive-In column devoted entirely to planning the perfect date. And what better place for a night of amore than Little Italy?

I will help you set the mood, my friend, but it's up to you to make it happen.

The evening begins with dinner at Gennaro's, a shadowy dive on Taylor Street between Ada and Loomis Streets. It is doubtful your date will be turned on by the decor as the quaint, two-room bar is adorned in yellowing celebrity photographs, Cubs paraphernalia, and Schlitz signs. But the intoxicating smell of bubbling red sauce and baking bread from the kitchen should alert him/her to your extreme prowess for being able to maneuver your way past the Tuscany/Rosebud/Francesca's chains that crowd Taylor Street to this quirky hideaway (if not, then he/she is not good enough to be dating you). Snuggle into a cozy booth and begin to peruse the menu.

Gennaro's reeks (in more ways than one) of Old World style, a comforting attribute that has exponentially increased the number of regular customers (mostly couples) since the 1950s. These folks saunter in, greet the bartender and servers by name, and happily entertain themselves during the somewhat longish amount of time it takes to be served. (Please note: Gennaro's homemade pasta, though well worth the wait, takes a long time to prepare. It is wise to visit this place only with someone with whom you care to spend an extended amount of time.)

The homemade gnocchi covered in marinara and topped with a perfectly-cooked meatball is superb: I was convinced the sauce had been simmering for days. The only place where I have tasted better sauce is in the kitchen of my Italian grandmother. The garlic and butter wafting from the plate of chicken vesuvio turns heads as it is delivered to lucky patrons. But the stars of the show are the pork chops, huge slabs of meat fried to perfection and piled high with roasted potatoes and peppers. The only dessert fitting to end such a meal is the cannoli -- a golden brown pastry cuddling creamy vanilla or chocolate filling. Instead of using an overwrought word to describe the ecstasy enjoyed during this dessert, I'll just say that I hope the rest of the night's activities will bring you such pleasure.

You've paid the bill and your date is clearly impressed, but the night is far from over. Lead him/her a few doors west to BeviAmo, a wine bar with an astounding amount of sex appeal. Whatever points you may have lost at Gennaro's for lack of ambiance will be gained back tenfold once you enter BeviAmo; folds of tapestry drape from the ceiling, sensuous artwork decorates the walls, and the entire place is enveloped in a blanket of sultry darkness sparsely lit by a multitude of tiny flickering candles (which take owner Josh Fasett a full 30 minutes to light each evening).

The lengthy wine list is as overwhelming as the atmosphere. Fasett has stocked his cellar with a number of international selections, and most are reasonably-priced (you can order a decent glass of wine for $7-$8). If you are intimidated by the pages and pages before you, don't hesitate to ask him for a suggestion -- he is happy to oblige. Or, you can sip on one of the several specialty martinis -- whether it be a vodka-saturated dirty martini or a lip-puckering fruity concoction; the list could charm any harsh critic.

As would seem likely given its location, BeviAmo attracts many a college student from nearby UIC who congregate to hear the nightly deejays or live piano tunes. But don't be distracted from your task of seduction: huddle with your sweetheart at a table in the corner, nurse a glass of robust cabernet, and engage in the most scintillating of conversations. Your date will have to agree this is a brilliant climax to an arousing evening. Who knows what might happen next?

Gennaro's is located at 1352 W. Taylor St. and is open Thursday through Sundays. BeviAmo Wine Bar is right next door.

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Comments

Naz / November 17, 2003 6:14 PM

Sounds...saucy.

Reards / November 19, 2003 10:13 AM

I love Genero's; the pork chops, potatoes and peppers is one of my all time favorite Chicago meals. As alluded to in the write-up though, this place is "old world" charm - don't expect the service and/or ambiance of some of Chicago's ritzier up-scale Italian. The place is as much about experiencing an old-school Chicago haunt as it is getting a great Italin meal.

Vanessa / November 20, 2003 12:52 PM

Kim really brought Genero's to life with this description. I can't wait to visit!

Shannon / March 30, 2004 5:54 AM

Interesting information on this blog, thanks

 

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