Industry Insiders Dish on Family Style

We asked some of our favorite industry peers and associates to share their favorite memories of family-style dining.  We were completely charmed by their answers!!

What is your favorite family-style memory?

“Growing up in Massachusetts, every summer night was an ice cream night. I ordered sundaes and cones in all types of spots, but Chadwick’s was the best. The most preposterous item on the menu was the “Belly Buster” sundae, which was just what it sounded like… but bigger. If someone ate the whole thing, the staffers would ring a loud bell. But of course, eating all that ice cream was more fun (and feasible) as a team effort.”

-Jenny Berg, Chicago Bureau Chief, Biz Bash Media

“Being the youngest of eight kids, every night was family style. And the best part was our nightly family dinner was a sacred time…My Mom was amazing and took great pride in her cooking.  We always started with soup or salad, then a balanced meal of great meat, (my favorite was her rack of lamb) or fish with vegetables and a starch. Always fresh bread and a dessert – every night!!!  I can remember the butcher delivering packages and packages of white paper wrapped meats several times a week. I think my Mom was his favorite customer.  It was one of the best opportunities for me to learn from my siblings as well as learn proper dining etiquette in a fun setting. I cherish those family style dinner memories!! “

– Tom Kehoe, President, Kehoe Designs

Amy Allen

“Since my husband is 1 of 10 children (I only have 2 siblings), I would have to say my first true family-style dinner took place at his parents house in Connecticut….His mother expertly set a table for 20 like it was for 2 and served us her famous “Irish Spaghetti”, which is an amazing combination of pasta, sauce, and stove cooked bacon. There was also a fresh green salad with onions, tomatoes and his father’s homemade dressing (which I have yet to figure out), it is heaven…This meal, along with hundreds of others, with his family is the ultimate in family-style dining. They make the largest gathering feel intimate and effortless, but I guess after more than 50 years of marriage they have gotten it down to a science.”

-Amy Allen, Group Publisher Modern Luxury – Brides

Anthony Navarro

“Family style eating has always been a part of my living and being.  I can remember being young and going to my grandmother’s house for “Sunday Dinner,” We were always told that this is what Italians did.  You would go to church and then get together with your family in the early afternoon and eat a hefty dinner of pasta, homemade sauce, or as my grandma calls it, ‘gravy’, meatballs, sausage, Braciola, fresh cheese, and bread from the bakery made the same day!  I can remember sitting around a large dining room table, passing food around, laughing, talking loud and discussing what happened that week.  First there would be wine, with dinner and following up would be some scotch.  When the scotch came out, that is when the interesting conversations, usually leading to an argument of some sort over politics, world affairs, or what we were going to eat next Sunday.  To this day, family style dinners are the only way my family eats around a table.  Good food, good conversation, good wine, good people.  I would not have it any other way!”
– Anthony Navarro, Founder, Liven it Up Events

“Four years ago I went with my wife’s family to Sicily to visit family. In the center of Grammichele  we sat in the front room on the second floor at a large table seating around fifteen. The unknown shape of pasta was dabbed in a fantastic sugo.There was lightly breaded veal with lemon because we were there. Everyone looked  like my in-laws with a smattering of blonds. It did not seem like anyone was serving but plates of food and salad kept coming, all were eaten. The door was open and you could see the red tops of sixteenth century buildings. Dessert was pastries made with ricotta. Small cups of espresso were the finale.”
 —Richard Schneider, Owner Supreme Novelty Fabrics

Rachel De Marte

I was sitting at a giant dinning room table at a friends home in LA, where my Chef husband had just made grilled bone marrow, rib eye steaks, fried oyster sliders, and asparagus salad with chopped egg and truffle.  Unlike our usual dinners, it all hit the table at once and it was every man for himself!   Between the food, wine and company, we laughed hours on end.  In retrospect, that meal reminds me of going to Au Cheval – it’s so friggin good, but you leave feeling 5 lbs heavier.  Ha!
— Rachel De Marte Plan | Style | Party

What is your favorite sharing-plate restaurant experience in Chicago?

“It’s not technically a sharing-plate place, but whenever I’m at Karyn’s on Green I have to try some of what everyone is having. I’m fascinated by meat-free meatballs and chicken-free chicken, and always want to try one of everything on the menu. So I share there.”
– Jenny Berg

“My favorite small dish sharing restaurant is Ada Street – so awesome!!!!”
—Tom Kehoe

“Just this past summer, my husband and I dined at Girl and The Goat. While we do not typically seek out the latest restaurant to hit the Chicago scene, we like our old standbys, we ventured out and gave it a shot. Happily, it was a nice surprise and we liked sharing the variety of choices and wanting to try more together. I think because we were at a tiny table for 2, it made us feel like we were enjoying a secret that no one else could be part of. That’s a rarity.” – Amy Allen

“I am not able to pinpoint an actual place that I have loved the plate sharing experience.  What I can pinpoint are two dear friends of mine who I dine with at plate sharing restaurants.  What makes it so special and enjoyable for me is, none of look at the prices on the menu, we ask the server what she or he recommends, and spend about 2 to 3 hours, sitting, drinking a few bottles of good wine, with a slowly coursed out meal.  Catching up on our lives, work, family, other friends and what is happening in the world.  As long as the food is good and the wine is flowing, with the right company, breaking bread and sharing with one another is an enjoyable experience for me!”
– Anthony Navarro

“The founders of Fat Rice in Logan Square started a few years ago doing secret dinner parties at locations revealed the day of the event. Michael, Wendy, my wife Susan and I, went to a spicy Chinese/ Portuguese theme dinner. The dinner featured several interesting combinations highlighted by  an accompanied hot sauce fashioned for each dish. These dinners brought people together for the food and chef Abraham always had plates to be passed that inspired extensive conversation regarding each dish.” – Richard Schneider

Avec!  Their whole menu is based on sharing, and you sit at communal tables to boot.   As a person that doesn’t love communal seating, they make it more than tolerable.  They do this by serving 2 things;  Truffle Foccacia and Bacon Wrapped Dates.   These items (paired with a great wine list) will change anyone’s viewpoint on family-style dining. — Rachel DeMarte