Travels with Pete

Travels with Pete

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

It is a Saturday night at the Irish Rose in the River District. Jose, my head cook at the Irish Rose Norte (Rockton), has decided to not think, and he hasn’t stopped to get the payroll or the cash box (in spite of the fact that he knows I am not planning on being there tonight). After a couple of frantic calls to my manager, Susie, I accept the inevitable and decide that I must take the payroll to the restaurant in Rockton.

I am standing at the little bar griping about the situation when I spy Pete Cannova sitting at the main bar. I walk over to visit with him. He is drinking sherry. “Dry sherry,” as my dear departed mother would have said, and God forgive the bartender who gave her sweet sherry. I ask what he is drinking and tell the bartender to give me the same. After a couple of sherries, I tell Peter about my mission and ask if he would like to accompany me. He asks if there is time to finish his drink and I say, of corse. I order another.

As we sit at the bar, I show Pete my new toy. It is a digital recorder aimed at giving me more pertinent information for my column. Too often, that perfect moment gets forgotten, the victim of too many cocktails or just a mind suffering from too many years of the same. Pete likes my recorder, and we play at recording silly little messages.

After a few more sherries, we set out for Rockton. Before going, I have to get gasoline, so we stop at the former Amoco, now British Petroleum, station just down East State Street from the Irish Rose. I am struck by the moment, and I whip out my handy dandy little recorder. “How does it feel to be here in a British—Petrol—stop? I feel rather fortunate to be in Rockford at this point in time.” (Coldplay plays in the background on the van’s CD player.) “I got to put my credit card in the British Petroleum machine, pull out the British Petroleum handle, and stick it in the Mercury Villager-Nissan Quest and pump it full of Iraqi gasoline.”

Thus gassed up, we wend our way to the Irish Rose in Rockton. When we get there, we sit at the bar and order appetizers. First, we have oysters Rockefeller, then we have oysters on the half shell. I make a joke about there being no point eating oysters because I haven’t been getting any. I think I am drinking Chardonnay. Pete is drinking Cabernet at this point. We have coffee and sober up a bit for the trip back to Rockford.

On the way back, I propose we stop at Cliffbreakers for a drink. We wander into the bar. I order Homewood Chardonnay. Pete discovers they have a Scotch collection and jumps in feet first. I’m not sure what he orders, but he has more than one. I wander down the hallway. I run into Melissa, Blas Serrano’s wife. God, what a beautiful woman. We talk about Blas. I tease her about how good looking he is. She doesn’t disagree. She asks if I am going to stop at Serrano’s later. I tell her no, I am traveling with Pete Cannova and that we are going to his family’s restaurant.

Then it is back to the bar to put up with Pete, who is getting quite loquacious after so many Scotches. I twist his arm to go to dinner. We had agreed that I would pick up the tab at my places and that he would do the same at his family’s restaurant, a fair trade. I manage to get him back to the van, and we take the short ride across the river.

We walk into Cannova’s, and I head for the kitchen to talk to Michael. We shoot restaurant breeze for a few minutes, and then I make my way to the table. I haven’t been drinking Scotch, but the accumulated effect of so many glasses of wine is taking its toll. I need something to eat. I order a New York. Pete wants pasta “with red sauce.” And we both get what we want.

When the bill arrives, the waitress says that Michael says it is on the house, but Pete won’t listen and pays anyway. Peter says he doesn’t need to be on the road after drinking so much, and he will collect his car in the morning. I head back to the Irish Rose.

About one in the morning, my cell phone beeps. It is Kelly, my bartender, in a message saying that Pete called to say that he left his car keys and jacket in my car. He didn’t. The next day I check the van to be sure. There are no keys or jacket. Evidently Pete found them because he didn’t call.

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 Web site: and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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