Park Ridge Insider: Lida Bunting on dinner at Cucina Biagio, holiday light shows and the Park Ridge Speedskating Club
Ice skating photo by Marina Samovsky
How long you’ve lived here: We moved in October of 2012, so just over eight years.
What you like best about Park Ridge: I love the proximity of everything and the small-town feel. I grew up in a suburb where everything was very spread out. So being able to walk to the park, or to Uptown, is great. We always bump into someone we know while we’re out and about.
Best meal you’ve had recently: Aside from my own cooking? (Ha ha). I had dinner out at Cucina Biagio in Harwood Heights with a couple girlfriends a few Fridays ago, and it was fantastic! The wine pours are generous, the food is fresh and delicious, and the service was personal and very attentive. It is a multi-generational family-owned business (by a Park Ridge local), and when you walk in, you are treated like family. I wish it was in Uptown so we could walk there, but it is always enjoyable and never disappoints.
Favorite restaurant in the area: I have to say, it’s really hard to identify just one. It depends on what we are in the mood for. And who in our family is answering the question. However, with a family of four, with one kid who is super picky, there are three restaurants in town that are always a hit and we can feed the entire family without anyone complaining. Those include Pazzi di Pizza, City Barbeque and Blue Fish Sushi.
Favorite “hidden gem” restaurant: When I was in my 20s, my sister and I traveled to Paris for a long weekend. On every corner, they had crepe vendors. Although I had always loved crepes, I was enthralled with them being so readily available (like hot dogs on a NYC corner). I continue to feel like crepes are a special treat, and I enjoy both the savory and sweet options offered at Cream of the Crepe on Northwest Highway.
Best bar to grab a drink or to catch the game: This is funny. As middle-aged working parents, we don’t really get out to the bars much. Certainly not like we used to in our 20s. But we are also very simple people who want to support our friends in the community. So, if I could just go out and grab a drink with my husband and leave the kids at home, we would go to Teaser’s on Higgins. The bar is owned by a local Park Ridge family, so we know that the service will be great.
A great night out with friends usually includes… see above. Seriously though, we love to support the local businesses, or our friends who live in Park Ridge and own their own businesses. If it’s nice out, our preference is to walk into Uptown and grab dinner wherever we can get a seat the quickest. However, I’m just as happy having friends over to our house. I love to entertain, so having cocktails here, cooking dinner and sitting out by the fire afterwards while spending time with our friends is a perfect night.
The best way to spend a Saturday in the winter: Ice skating at Oakton, holiday-dress shopping for the kids at Camp Willow, heading to the Pickwick for a movie and grabbing pizza, wings and a beer at Holt’s.
What’s something you look forward every winter? There’s a certain magical feeling that happens with the first snow. As a family, we enjoy being outside year-round. So having the opportunity to go sledding at Centennial Park is high on our list of things to do every winter. We try to get there in the morning before it gets too crowded. When the kids were smaller, it was a full-body workout climbing up the hill so that they could ride down. Now I make them do it themselves, and I just stand at the bottom taking videos or pictures. Every once in a while, they’ll get me on a sled.
We also love to go to one of the local light shows. I can’t choose a favorite — but we’ve gone to Lincoln Park Zoo Lights, the Chicago Botanic Garden, Brookfield Zoo and the Morton Arboretum. It always gets us into the spirit of the season.
Favorite store or best shopping area: Honestly, I’m not much of a shopper at all (which my husband is very happy about). My kids like going to shopping malls. Probably because of the Annie’s pretzels that I usually buy to bribe them to behave.
Secret Park Ridge spot: We love the great outdoors and hike as much as we can. During a summer bike ride along the Caldwell trail this summer, I discovered some trails that went “off road.” We took the kids and dog exploring and really felt like we were way out of the city. It was interesting and fun to explore. Who knew that Chicago can offer so much nature? Looking at a map, I have learned that this part of the city is called Thaddeus Lechowicz Woods.
Underrated activity in the area: My youngest daughter started speedskating with the Park Ridge Speedskating Club over a year ago, and I have to say that I am very impressed with the program. The head coaches are led by a mother-daughter team of two former Olympians: Nancy Swider-Peltz Sr. and Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. The team is small, so everyone gets personalized attention from the coaches.
What have you heard great things about but have yet to try?
The newly opened Brick & Mortar, the first co-working space in Park Ridge, is on my list of places to try. I have been working from home since 2015, and although I love my office space, every once in a while, I’d like to get out and co-work somewhere else. They have day passes you can use to camp out there for the day and get work done away from home.