BACK OF THE HOUSE
Transplants from the Windy City will feel a little less homesick at Jimmy’s of Chicago in Gilbert.
Zalena Kersting and her husband, Kerry, opened it in December 2008 as a sister restaurant to Jimmy’s Place, which Zalena’s family has operated for more than a decade in the suburban Chicago dining mecca of Forest Park.
Photos of the city skyline and the Willis Tower (better known by its former name, the Sears Tower) line the walls, as do framed front pages of the Chicago Tribune trumpeting the Bulls’ six championship wins in the 1990s. During her move from the Midwest, Kersting also carted her mom’s recipes for Italian classics like stuffed artichokes, chicken Vesuvio and homemade pastas, all in hearty portions.
Like its namesake, Jimmy’s is a neighborhood hangout, with a Frank Sinatra-style lounge singer serenading guests on Wednesdays, karaoke contests on Saturdays, raffles for signed sports jerseys during baseball and football seasons, and fundraisers for local causes and families. It’s also a magnet for spring training fans and former baseball players, several of whom have signed the wall.
There’s a lot of Jimmies. My brother-in-law, who owns the restaurant back in Chicago, is Jim. My brother, who used to be the chef at Jimmy’s Place, is Jimmy. My dad was James. It was named after all of them.
What did you do before opening the restaurant?
[Kerry] was an electrical engineer for 20 years. I’ve been a lawyer 20-plus years. I’m a [divorce] lawyer by day, bartender by night. Doesn’t that sound sexy?
You obviously love Chicago and your family is there. Why leave?
I moved to Arizona in 1982, when I went to college at the University of Arizona. But my degrees are from Arizona State University. My husband and I met at the UofA. I knew as much as I loved Chicago I did not miss the cold weather, and felt there were more opportunities for me here.
Which Jimmy’s dish do Chicago expats love most?
The Italian beef, which, anybody that’s from Chicago knows, there’s nothing like an Italian beef sandwich. You have to have giardiniera peppers. The bread has to be just right. You always know somebody’s not from Chicago when they say, “Can I get the Italian beef sub?”
You serve thin-crust pizza. What’s your take on deep dish?
I think that deep dish can be good, and there are good deep-dish places, but it’s too filling and heavy, so there’s nothing like a crispy, thin-crust pizza. Our cheese is a mixture of a couple of cheeses, so our pizza has a lot of flavor. And our pizza slices are square, not pie-shaped.
Cubs or White Sox?
Cubs, absolutely! We do allow Sox fans in the restaurant, but we kind of put them in the corner.
Co-owner, Jimmy’s of Chicago
3107 S. Gilbert Road, Ste. 107, Gilbert
480-963-6363 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 480-963-6363 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
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