The Reader‘s archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we’ll dig through and bring up some finds.
This Sunday, April 1, marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of Crib, the most exclusive restaurant that ever existed in Chicago. Located in the Carter H. Harrison Water Intake Crib two miles off the Oak Street Beach, Crib had just 26 seats, and when restaurant critic Mike Sula paid a visit the week before opening, it was already booked for the next two months. Owner-chef Albert D’Angelo refused to take any calls from a local area code.
D’Angelo, Sula wrote, was a 24-year-old New Yorker partial to smoking “a glass bong half filled with a corked ’82 Petrus.” After he dropped out of his private school seven years earlier, his father, a trader on the New York Stock Exchange, got him a job as a dishwasher at Mario Batali’s Babbo. D’Angelo parlayed that into a meteoric rise:
“I told people I worked the pass at Babbo for three years. It was surprising how easy it was to get in,” he says. He kept his eyes open, grabbed every chance he could to work prep, and muscled or bribed his way onto the line. “If I had to call INS on some line cook who got territorial about his station,” he says, “I would.”
D’Angelo’s career truly took off when he left restaurant kitchens behind him and began staging an itinerant popup called the Last Supper in a series of eccentric locations in Manhattan, including a bodega and a subway power station.
Before long, suspiciously familiar analogs of some of his dishes began to show up on the menus of fine-dining restaurants all over the country—including Chicago. “Edible menus? Mine. Foie gras lollipops? Mine. That cat who was serving sushi on a naked girl? I did that first—with pasta.”
Fear of further copying was why Crib was located so far offshore and why you had to take a speedboat to get there. D’Angelo was coy about what he planned to serve on opening night. “If I told you anything I’d have an animal rights naval blockade on my hands,” he told Sula.
If, reading this now, you think that this asshole represented everything awful about the dining scene of the aughts, except exponentially worse, yes, you are absolutely right. And for good reason. Look again at that opening date. Happy April Fool’s!