Karen Hansen | email@example.com
The venerable Lucca Grill always extends a warm welcome to friends, whether gone a day or a decade. The downtown Bloomington landmark, 116 E. Market St., is long on comfort and short on pretense; hang around long enough and you’ll join an extended family.
The eatery is an octogenarian now, begun in 1936 by immigrant brothers Fred and John Baldini near the end of the Great Depression.
Over time, many superlatives have described its special ambiance: painted tin ceilings, a working dumbwaiter and Lilliputian-sized bathrooms. “A delightful old-time saloon” gushed The New York Times; “one of the most congenial bars ever founded,” fawned The Washington Post.
Its long love affair with Democrats was trumpeted by John Baldini No. 2, revered leader of McLean County’s liberal wing until his 1994 death. The grill dispenses Kennedy half-dollars in change and one manager – John Fitzgerald Koch – is even named for the 35th president.
Oodles of celebrities have walked through the doors but it’s regulars and folks like 46-year employee Lois Durbin who have been vetted with a picture on the wall or a plaque on a barstool or a menu item named in their honor.
That menu’s most-favored meal is the “A La Baldini,” the dime-thin Italian pie with sausage, pepperoni, ham, onions, mushrooms, green peppers and pepperocini.
Slide into a stool along the timeworn mahogany bar and savor some. It’s a family rite of passage.