Hanging out in Rockford: Nothing in particular

Hanging out in Rockford: Nothing in particular

By By Mike Leifheit

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life.” These columns are also available on his website: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

I was so busy last week that I didn’t get to proof my column. A couple of corrections need to be made. Jenny Geiger’s number for her business, Harvest Catering, is 624-0634. Also Walt (from Paragon’s) last name is Rebman, not Rebinan. Sorry to all parties including Frank Schier. I try to do a good job with that type of thing, but the week was very eventful. Tuesday night at our downtown location was like a Friday or Saturday. Afterward I was out celebrating a little and didn’t see the fax from The Rock River Times until it too late to correct it.

The next night, the night of the full moon, my cell phone rings. It is Sandi Kohn. “What are you doing?” she asks. “I’m downstairs in your bar.” I tell her I’ll be right down. Sandi is one of my favorite people. We used to see more of each other when her husband, Gary, worked in Columbus, Ohio, and they spent their time divided between Rockford and Columbus. Now that Gary has moved to Rockford, and they have a beautiful new home, I don’t get to see her as often. We spend some time drinking Chardonnay and just hanging out. We talk about things in the River District, politics and whatever we have a notion to talk about. Then we head over to the Lunacy Collective at the Artery. The place is packed. Susan Hofer is on stage with Ryan Swanson on sax, Matt Ulery on bass, Jonathon Marks on drums and Ernie Hendrickson on guitar.

Lunacy Collective is sort of a jam session. All the musicians are highly trained; what happens just happens, but it is always good. Evidently, word is getting around because tonight the place is filled to overflowing. Sandi and I have to stand in the back. I listen to a few numbers but then whisper to Sandi that I have to be going, and I head back to the Irish Rose for an early night. Mike Tyler also performed, but I didn’t get a chance to see him.

Then it is Thursday, and I am off to the market. After I get back and do the money, I am hungry. I want to get away, so I head down to Little Italy. Maria has been making the Sicilian Chicken on Thursdays. They always used to have this special on Thursdays in the old days, and it is one of my favorite dinners in a restaurant in Rockford. I sit at the bar and order a glass of Escudo Rojo.

This is a wonderful red wine that is a collaboration between Rothschild of France and a Chilean winery from the Maipo Valley. It is roughly equivalent to the Opus One project that Robert Mondavi has with Rothschild. Anyway, it is some seriously good wine. They sell it too cheap at Little Italy.

Maria walks up to me. “Somebody writes about you in The Rock River Times,” she says. She has a big smile on her face. “You no see?” “No,” I say. “I show you,” she says. “You sure you no see?” “No, honest, Maria,” I say. She opens The Rock River Times and goes right to the Letters to the Editor section. I sit and read the letter. Maria is watching me, grinning ear to ear.

The letter: “Mike Leifheit’s Column?”, is the headline. “Dear Editor: What’s up with Mike Leifheit’s column.? I’ve read a few of them expecting to get a restaurant review (at least) only to find it’s a column about the history of a clumsy, name-dropping self-promoter. Regardless of any friendship that may lie between Mike and employees of your paper, how about a real review, or next he’ll be writing about his latest bowel movement. Ugh!—Eve Stellar”

About this time, Frank Calvenese walks up, and Maria begins talking to him in animated Italian. Even this advanced-in-years Irish bar owner can tell, however, that “bowel movement” is part of their conversation. They all have a good laugh at my expense. That’s OK, I can stand it.

Eve Stellar evidently doesn’t follow my column closely, or she would know that it ceased being specifically a restaurant review some time ago. I resent the use of the phrase “name-dropping.” Name-dropping is when you use the names of people you don’t know. Anyone whose name has been used in my column will tell you that I don’t do that. Ask around. No one has called me clumsy since my mother died. She had exclusive rights to that phrase. Self-promoter? Well, yes. I have a bar and restaurant, duh! I would like to think I am a friend of everyone at the newspaper. I am proud of that. But I didn’t understand the need to stoop to a scatological ad hominem attack. If you read regularly, you know that I never say anything bad about anyone except chain restaurants. Maybe Eve Stellar works at Don Pablo’s Mexican kitchen.

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