Park Ridge Insider Brittany Simonelli on shopping at Raffia, the muffaletta sandwich at Daniel’s Charcuterie and escaping to Union Pier, Michigan
Raffia photo by Nikki Allen Creative
What you do for a living: I used to be an executive/personal assistant to the CEO of a private equity firm and then to a high-net worth family. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom to our two wonderful girls (Elle, 6 and Bree, 3) since then, and work part time at Raffia in town. I’m also an accomplished violinist and used to play in the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra. I’ve performed around the world and for the Chicago Bulls during the Jordan era!
How long you’ve lived here: 37 years in total. I attended the University of Iowa and then lived in River North for six years before returning with my husband, Vic, to start a family. My parents are five minutes away too. Gold!
What you like best about Park Ridge: How it’s evolved! To think, a car dealership was where Trader Joe’s is, Pine’s (a men’s clothing store) was where Holt’s is, and Walter’s was basically the only restaurant in town on Main Street. Park Ridge has really come a long, long way!
Best meal you’ve had recently: The Philly cheesesteak (Detroit-style) slice at Pizzaboy in Edison Park. It’s hands down one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. You can’t beat the crunch of that pizza anywhere in town. You just can’t. (My Long Island, New York husband would agree.)
Favorite restaurant in the area: Pennyville Station. We’ve been here more times than we can count. Tony Antonacci knows how to do it right. His menu has such an array of items, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. From the kung pao cauliflower to the garlic knots to the jalapeño chicken — it’s all fabulous.
When I don’t have time to bake, I run to Sweet & Tart to grab some homemade delicious goodies. My daughters also can’t get enough of their milkshakes or soft pretzel bites.
Favorite “hidden gem” restaurant: Sweet & Tart. It might not be “hidden,” but their bakery items are the best-kept secret here. I love baking — it’s definitely a hobby — but when I don’t have time, I run there to grab some homemade delicious goodies. My daughters also can’t get enough of their milkshakes or soft pretzel bites with cheese sauce.
Best bar to grab a drink or to catch the game: Holt’s or Harp and Fiddle. They have so many TVs, and the games are always on. We are a Big Ten college football family (Michigan and Iowa).
A great night out with friends usually includes… dinner at Pennyville Station, Shakou, Zaza Cucina or Pazzi di Pizza. Always followed by cocktails at Holt’s. Bart is a phenomenal bartender.
The best way to spend a Saturday in the winter: If there’s snow, then definitely sledding at Centennial Park. You can’t beat that hill. Beware of the ice though if it’s really cold. That is not easy with the stairs!
What’s something you look forward every winter?
I love the Park Ridge Winterfest the night after Thanksgiving. I have such great memories of Santa coming to town when I was young, and I always used to play my violin at Raffia for it in the 1990s. All of the stores are fully decked out, and the treats and beverages don’t hurt either.
Favorite local store or best shopping area: Raffia, of course! I work there part time now, and I used to work there in high school. It’s such a beautiful store. If you need some home decor, a baby gift or a hostess gift, the possibilities are endless. And if you want a therapeutic, sweet-smelling store, you’re in the right place.
Secret Park Ridge spot: Daniel’s Charcuterie for their muffaletta sandwich. My husband is from New York and is very picky with this kind of stuff. He gave it a 9 out of 10. I can’t wait to try more things.
Underrated activity in the area: Driving around Lincolnwood/Sauganash to see all of the Christmas lights. My parents did that with me when I was growing up, and it’s still the best. It’s so close to Park Ridge. The house that has the gigantic Christmas tree coming through the roof is still there, and it’s epic. It’s a tradition I love carrying on.
We loved visiting Michigan this past summer. Union Pier and Stevensville are less than two hours away, but we felt like we were way further than that. The beaches, the little towns… you can’t ask for anything more in a weekend.
Weekend getaway spot: We loved visiting Michigan this past summer in Union Pier and Stevensville. Both are less than two hours away, but we felt like we were way further than that. The beaches, the little towns… you can’t ask for anything more in a weekend.
What have you heard great things about but have yet to try?
Reyes Steakhouse. I have heard nothing but phenomenal things about this place. People rave about the food all the time. We are definitely planning a date night there soon!