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Romas — Old Restaurant at State & Adams

Romas — Old Restaurant at State & Adams
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  • Romas — Old Restaurant at State & Adams

    Post #1 - November 26th, 2009, 9:50 pm
    Post #1 - November 26th, 2009, 9:50 pm Post #1 - November 26th, 2009, 9:50 pm
    This is the sort of question I usually answer, not ask. Does anyone remember Romas Restaurant (I'm not sure if it's Romas or Roma's), once at the southwest corner of State & Adams? It was located in the ground floor of the Century Building, vacant for many years now.

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    On the curved glass and steel street-level façade, the words "Good Food Since 1909" remain. The black and white decorative panels were installed several months ago.

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    To the left of "Good Food Since 1909" one can just make out the name "Romas" even though the letters have been removed.

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    I was surprised to find a Romas matchbook in my collection.

    Image Image

    Google has been of relatively little help but it did turn up the following information from Emporis.com.

    The building once held the world's tallest restaurant sign: an electric light spelling "Romas Restaurant" on the corner of State and Adams. The sign was changed to "Adams Restaurant" in 1975.

    Although I've passed that corner thousands of times I'm drawing a blank on this one. Does anyone have more information on Romas (or Adams)?
  • Post #2 - November 27th, 2009, 9:11 am
    Post #2 - November 27th, 2009, 9:11 am Post #2 - November 27th, 2009, 9:11 am
    I sure don't and I've been working in that area for over thirty years.
    Toria

    "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" - As You Like It,
    W. Shakespeare
  • Post #3 - November 27th, 2009, 10:27 am
    Post #3 - November 27th, 2009, 10:27 am Post #3 - November 27th, 2009, 10:27 am
    Hi Peter,

    did you see this?

    Image

    (from chicagopc.info)

    The street number doesn't seem right, though.
  • Post #4 - December 4th, 2009, 12:34 am
    Post #4 - December 4th, 2009, 12:34 am Post #4 - December 4th, 2009, 12:34 am
    Thanks, Amy, for bringing up Ristorante Roma. I actually have that postcard in my collection. It's one of my favorites so it was fun to look into the restaurant's history.

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    I had assumed it was completely unrelated to Romas Restaurant at State & Adams but the more I found out, the less sure I became. I still think the two restaurants are not directly related though. Ristorante Roma has an interesting story.

    In her impressive website Restaurant-ing through history Jan Whitaker wrote:An early, ca. 1896, graduate of a program at the Armour Institute in Chicago (later the Illinois Institute of Technology) was Ida Foster Cronk, catering director and manager of the Coffee House at Jane Addams’s Hull House. In 1900 Cronk left the settlement house to open her own Ristorante Roma in Chicago’s Loop, shown here ca. 1906 [same postcard].

    Ms Cronk's restaurant, referred to as The Roma in its newspaper ads ("Spaghetti, as Cooked in Italy"), was on the top floor of a building on State between Madison and Monroe (remember, Chicago's street numbering system was changed in 1909). The restaurant, or more accurately its successor, is included in John Drury's Dining in Chicago from 1931.

    John Drury wrote: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.

    [A discussion of the food and clientele follows.]

    In the 1930-31 telephone directory it is listed as The New Roma Restaurant. I'm not sure of the significance of that change. Regardless of possible ownership changes, it appears The (New) Roma closed during World War II: it is listed in a 1941 telephone directory but is absent in the 1945 edition.

    I have been unable to find mention of The Roma from the mid '40s to the early '60s. After pursuing many false leads I finally came upon this snippet from Tower Ticker in the Chicago Tribune of December 16, 1963.

    Herb Lyon wrote:Romas' big restaurant debuts today at State and Adams and seats 750.

    So it seems Romas Restaurant opened in 1963 and lasted to about 1975. I'm still stumped by the "Good Food Since 1909" sign, still as clear as can be.

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    Could that be a completely bogus claim, Romas trying to trace their lineage back to The Roma? Or is there another interesting story waiting to be uncovered?

    As I mentioned above, it was reported that Romas was replaced by Adams Restaurant around 1975. I have no information on Adams but Googling the phone number from the Romas matchbook led to a mention of The Court Restaurant, a name that sounds familiar. Does anyone remember The Court at the corner of State & Adams?
  • Post #5 - December 4th, 2009, 7:28 am
    Post #5 - December 4th, 2009, 7:28 am Post #5 - December 4th, 2009, 7:28 am
    Rene G wrote:Googling the phone number from the Romas matchbook led to a mention of The Court Restaurant, a name that sounds familiar. Does anyone remember The Court at the corner of State & Adams?


    Are you confusing "The Court" with "The Cart" which was located at Harrison & Wabash and mentioned here several times in the past?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #6 - December 4th, 2009, 3:45 pm
    Post #6 - December 4th, 2009, 3:45 pm Post #6 - December 4th, 2009, 3:45 pm
    The Court Restauant (the name referring to its close proximity to the Dirkson Federal Court House) was a better that average Greek owned diner on the first floor that served from 5 AM to 7 PM. In the basment was a full service Greek restaurant with the occasional belly dancer or two and a very lively (during cocktail hour) cocktail lounge.
  • Post #7 - February 1st, 2010, 9:36 pm
    Post #7 - February 1st, 2010, 9:36 pm Post #7 - February 1st, 2010, 9:36 pm
    I noticed a cool old "ghost sign" for Romas that can still be seen on the south wall of the Century Building.

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    stevez wrote:Are you confusing "The Court" with "The Cart" which was located at Harrison & Wabash and mentioned here several times in the past?

    I realize The Court and The Cart were two different restaurants. Although I never ate at The Cart ("Prime Rib at Its Pampered, Palatable Best"), I am familiar with it. A friend worked there very briefly in the 1970s but had to leave because she refused to wear nail polish.

    Beauner wrote:The Court Restauant (the name referring to its close proximity to the Dirkson Federal Court House) was a better that average Greek owned diner on the first floor that served from 5 AM to 7 PM. In the basment was a full service Greek restaurant with the occasional belly dancer or two and a very lively (during cocktail hour) cocktail lounge.

    Thanks for sharing your memories of The Court. I found out the owner, a native of Cyprus, also ran Merchant's Restaurant at State & Madison.
  • Post #8 - September 21st, 2010, 8:40 am
    Post #8 - September 21st, 2010, 8:40 am Post #8 - September 21st, 2010, 8:40 am
    Stumbled onto this photo on Flickr - Sheds no further light on Romas, but here's a shot of the Court:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22729756@N ... 045500178/

    [PS: Mods, embed if you like. Not sure if Flickr is being friendly with sharing yet.]
    Writing about craft beer at GuysDrinkingBeer.com
    "You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now." ~Ebert
  • Post #9 - September 22nd, 2010, 8:21 am
    Post #9 - September 22nd, 2010, 8:21 am Post #9 - September 22nd, 2010, 8:21 am
    I have a recent picture of this site.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22729756@N00/4815779435/
    There used to be a Roma's in South Chicago also so it was probably a naming trend.
  • Post #10 - September 22nd, 2010, 10:10 am
    Post #10 - September 22nd, 2010, 10:10 am Post #10 - September 22nd, 2010, 10:10 am
    Not to confuse things further, but I'm assuming you're familiar with this one, too, Peter:

    Image
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #11 - September 22nd, 2010, 11:38 am
    Post #11 - September 22nd, 2010, 11:38 am Post #11 - September 22nd, 2010, 11:38 am
    whiskeybent wrote:Stumbled onto this photo on Flickr - Sheds no further light on Romas, but here's a shot of the Court:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22729756@N ... 045500178/

    cbnight wrote:I have a recent picture of this site.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22729756@N00/4815779435

    Cool pictures! I especially like the street cart in front of the restaurant. Since the most recent picture of the Century Building, the windows have been converted to gallery space as part of the Pop-Up Art Loop exhibits.

    cbnight wrote:There used to be a Roma's in South Chicago also so it was probably a naming trend.

    Roma's is still there at 9247 S Commercial. I stopped in for a beer less than a year ago (was going to eat but the restaurant half closes early). It's a very old restaurant (1920s at least) that you never see on "Chicago's oldest" lists. There were quite a few other Roma/Roma's in Chicago throughout the 20th century.

    Gypsy Boy wrote:Not to confuse things further, but I'm assuming you're familiar with this one, too, Peter:

    Image

    Thanks for the card. I've seen it before but don't yet have it in my collection. That's a successor to the "original" Roma on State Street. I think by that time Ida Cronk was no longer affiliated with the restaurant. If you look at the John Drury quote in my post of 4 Dec 09 above, you'll see it was at the Wabash location for only four years.

    By the way, just the other day I noticed another defunct restaurant's ghost sign, not far from State & Adams. I'll post more when I've done some research.
  • Post #12 - September 22nd, 2010, 11:39 am
    Post #12 - September 22nd, 2010, 11:39 am Post #12 - September 22nd, 2010, 11:39 am
    Yes there is a Roma's there but it doesn't resemble anything close to the original.
    It was shuttered for years and the current owner's are using the name for nostalgia

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