Quaint Conversations with Interesting People: Edoardo Branca of Fratelli Branca
It’s always fascinating to view Chicago from an outsider’s eye. That gives us perspective on what we’re doing right—and what we could do better. For instance, a recent two-day trip to the Windy City by Fratelli Branca’s Edoardo Branca afforded him the time to explore a variety of venues around town.
The Orange County, Calif.-based Edoardo Branca is a sixth-generation descendant of Bernandino Branca—who created the bitter herbal Italian liqueur Fernet-Branca in 1845—and he travels the United States marketing Fratelli Branca Distillerie and its many products. That includes Carpano Antica Formula, Carpano vermouths, Punt e Mes, Caffe Borghetti and Candolini.
Chicago is not only a very important market for Fratelli Branca, but it’s also one of Edoardo Branca’s favorites. His latest excursion to the city took him to a modern luxury steakhouse, Logan Square mainstays and more.
Emporium Arcade Bar. One of Branca’s first stops upon arrival was this slick arcade lounge in Logan Square. It’s surprisingly one of his biggest Chicago clients, but he also enjoys visiting it for its unique energy. There are video games, pinball, and table games like air hockey, foosball and shuffleboard to keep patrons happy and occupied. And there’s an indoor food truck open Thursday through Saturday. The concept frequently rotates with offerings like burgers, tacos and Asian street fare.
Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse. Branca admits that living in Southern California doesn’t afford him access to the variety of steakhouses found in Chicago. Gibsons is at the top of his list, and he appreciates it for a “good time” and its classic atmosphere. It’s also a chance for him to chow down on a nice, juicy steak, preferably ribeye.
Longman & Eagle. When Branca is in a whiskey-drinking mood, he’s bound to hit up several places around town specializing in the spirit. This time around it was Longman & Eagle, which boasts one of the most extensive collections in the city. To get a real idea of what’s going on here, it’s recommended to order one of the whiskey flights. Imbibers may choose from flights of single-barrel bourbons to a selection of Japanese whiskies.
Lou Malnati’s. Branca’s Tuscany-born wife visited Chicago for the first time during his recent trip. One of the classic Chicago foods she craved, of course, was deep-dish pizza. Lou Malnati's is considered the oldest and most prominent family name in Chicago's pizza. The exclusive sausage blend is seasoned to their exact specifications. The fresh mozzarella cheese comes from the same small dairy that has supplied Lou Malnati’s for more than 40 years. And the family’s secret recipe for flaky, buttery crust has been passed down from generation to generation.
Steak 48. Former partners of Mastro’s have moved on to open this luxe prime steakhouse concept. With the second location in Chicago, Branca took the opportunity to check it out. He was madly impressed by its opulence, generous portions and elegant crowd. All steaks and chops are hand cut on-premises by a master butcher, and they’re wet aged for 28 days. One of Steak 48’s top side dishes is an ingenious way to surf and turf: The Alaskan king crab & rock shrimp mac and cheese is enough to satisfy four. Guests may also design their own fresh seafood tower, which includes iced Alaskan king crab legs, Maine lobster cocktail, a daily selection of oysters and super colossal shrimp cocktail.
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