When I was a State’s Attorney at 26th & California, Friday lunches and dinner when a jury was “out” were often enjoyed away from the Criminal Court Building. States Attorneys, Public Defenders, judges, police officers and politicians would head over to the wonderful enclave of Italian restaurants at 23rd and Oakley.
Those were the days. Marconi’s. La Fontanella. Febo’s. Toscana Bakery. And others. All offering wonderful fish, meat and pasta dishes. A commodity sadly lacking from the menu of one restaurant was wine. Vino rosso. The restaurant did not have a liquor license and thus could not – technically – sell wine (or any other alcoholic beverage).
But as stated on Febo’s menu – Un pranzo senza vino, e come un giorno senza sole (a day without wine is like a day without sunshine). So, to remedy the situation, this restaurant offered “Old Dutch grape juice.” Yep. If you wanted a glass of wine with lunch or dinner, you would look at the waitress and say “I will have some Old Dutch grape juice.” The waitress would nod. And disappear into the kitchen. She’d fill an Old Dutch grape juice bottle to the brim. With superb red wine from a keg in back.
Now you’re probably asking if they ever got in trouble – no liquor license and all. Answer? Never. Not with police, judges, lawyers and even Alderman (and occasionally the Mayor – Richard J.) all sitting there – asking for “Old Dutch grape juice” (har har hardy har har). Toward the end of my stretch – the restaurant did get a liquor license. But they still served Old Dutch. For old time’s sake. . . .