Route 66 update: Mardi Gras, today in history, upcoming St. Joseph’s Day tables and more

Hey, happy Fat Tuesday, y’all!  Today is the culmination of Mardi Gras season, which for you good Catholics means it’s your last chance to pig out and party before the grim frugality of Lent sets in tomorrow on Ash Wednesday.  If you’re planning to dine out tonight in the area and want to do it on or near Route 66, we suggest Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket on the route/Joliet Road in Willowbrook, IL or the new Darien outpost of Chuck’s Southern Comforts Café, which is about four blocks north of where Joliet Road and I-55 cross Cass Avenue.  Both have special menus tonight and Chuck’s will have live music, too, but whereas Chuck’s will pinch your pocket for $39 for their Creole buffet, Dell Rhea’s remains tasty and cost effective as ever!  We say:  eat on the route tonight at Dell Rhea’s and save the first Saturday of April for the beignet breakfast (OMG!) at Chuck’s.  Compromise is sure nice, ain’t it?  Tasty, too.

Mardi_Gras beads and Mask - blog (Wikimedia Commons)

Mardi Gras beads and mask  (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and abrahammy)

We have some updates for you and future events, but first a little local history is in order.  Today, March 4, is the 177th anniversary of the incorporation of the city of Chicago (1837!), the eastern terminus of historic U.S. Route 66.  Chicago officially became a city less than four years after it was incorporated as a town and never stopped growing for more than a century (the route started here for a reason:  location, location, location).  This also used to be the day the city officially celebrated Casimir Pulaski Day, in honor of the Polish count who fought and died in the American Revolutionary War (and for whom Crawford Road was renamed Pulaski Road, a bone of contention for any surviving descendants of Peter Crawford, one of the first farmers to settle in the western end of Lawndale in Chicago, through which Route 66/Ogden Avenue runs, of course).  I say that we used to celebrate Pulaski Day on the 4th, the same day as his patron saint – St. Casimir, honored by both Lithuanians and Poles – except that the state officially moved the date to the first Monday in March so that government employees could get another long weekend.  Typical.

Another opportunity to feast on a feast day (yes, pun intended) comes up soon on March 19th, St. Joseph’s Day.  Italians and Poles are both pretty big on St. Joseph, the foster-father of Christ, as are some other eastern Europeans.  One manifestation of this is the famous St. Joseph’s Day tables that are organized by many parishes, in thanksgiving for all the saint’s heavenly intercession over the previous year.  There are a few St. Joe’s tables coming up along our section of Route 66.  We thought we’d let you know now so that you can make plans.

a volunteer serving pizza and wine to keep  people warm while they wait in line for St. Joseph's table, March 2013

A volunteer serving pizza and wine to keep people warm while they wait in line for last year’s St. Joseph’s table at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Chicago’s Little Italy near Route 66.  Photo copyright 2013 by Joseph D. Kubal; all rights reserved, no reproduction without permission.

If you’re in Joliet, the local chapter of the Slovenian Union of America will hold its annual St. Joseph’s Table for SUA members and their guests on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 6:30 pm in the fieldhouse at St. Joseph Park.  That’s over on Raynor Avenue near Theodore Street on the north end of Joliet.  Because this is an SUA community event, everyone who expects to attend is asked to bring a dish to pass – so if you’re coming, you’d better know someone in the SUA and be prepared to cook!  The park is, of course, operated by St. Joseph’s Parish over on Chicago Street in the old Slovenian Row neighborhood, right across the street from the the SUA/Slovenian Heritage Museum.

In Chicago, the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Little Italy near the Illinois Medical District will hold its annual St. Joseph’s Table on Sunday, March 16th.  There will be two Masses celebrated in the church, 10:15 am and 12:15 pm, immediately followed by two seatings for the dinner buffet at 11:30 am – 1 pm and 1:30 pm – 3 pm.  Reservations are an absolute MUST, as this is an extremely popular religious and community event!  To make your reservations, call 312-421-3757.  Do it soon to assure your spot.  The church is located at 1224 W. Lexington St., but there’s zoned parking all around, so parking for the Mass and event will be two blocks north on Harrison Street in the lot at National Republic Bank.  There is typically no admission charged for this luncheon, but be prepared to make a donation anyway.  And take a good look around while you’re there:  this Worthmann & Steinbach -designed Romanesque church is pretty impressive and has multitudes of beautiful stained glass windows plus artisan-sculpted bronze doors in front.

Zeppole di San Giuseppe at Ferrara Original Bakery, Chicago  (Photo copyright 2013 by M.R. Traska)

For St. Joseph’s Day:  festive Zeppole di San Giuseppe at Ferrara Original Bakery, Taylor Street at Ogden Avenue in the Illinois Medical District, Chicago, IL  (Photo copyright 2013 by M.R. Traska)

And while you’re in Little Italy, don’t forget to stop by Ferrara Original Bakery on Taylor Street off Ogden Avenue and get some of their special St. Joseph’s Day zeppole di San Giuseppe pastries.  Ohhhhhh … Poles may love their paczki (jelly-filled doughnuts) on Paczki Day, but give me those feather-light zeppole and sfogliatelle any day!  The latter are clamshell-shaped, multi-layered puff pastry filled with sweet ricotta-orange-citrus custard and topped with whipped cream or pastry cream and a dab of red fruit filling.  Heavenly!!  And they have them at Ferrara’s.  Do give owners Nella Ferrara Davy and husband Bill Davy our regards.

ps – On Friday, we went to the book signing for the new Arcadia book about the Hawthorne Works in Cicero, IL and were disappointed to see only about 15 people at the event. Geez, guys, you actually need to promote a book event agresssively if you want people to come. Such a pity, because the book looks pretty good. You can check it out on Amazon.

Until next time,
your Route 66 foodie guide Marie



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