Classic Tables: Gene & Georgetti

Go for martinis, steaks and two garlicky Chicago originals

Chicago didn't invent the steakhouse. But it is the birthplace of Chicken Vesuvio and Shrimp de Jonghe, and one of the best places to get them is Chicago's oldest Italian steakhouse.

Gene & Georgetti has occupied the same gray clapboard house on the corner of North Franklin and Illinois since 1941 (where some of the white-haired, white-jacketed waiters claim to remember serving Ol' Blue Eyes and Lucille Ball).

The dining room's wood-and-leather glamour has faded with age, but the restaurant's classics haven't lost their luster.

A martini is obligatory, as is the Garbage Salad ($19), a jumbled 1950s hors d'oeuvre spread of iceberg lettuce, cheese, salami and chilled shrimp. Don't waste space on pasta–instead, try Shrimp de Jonghe ($36): rich, buttery shrimp topped with garlic- and wine-spiked breadcrumbs (tip: ask that your side of cottage fries comes crispy).

Gene & Georgetti's version of Chicken Vesuvio ($26) shines: The chicken is chopped into small pieces, pan-fried until extra-crisp and bathed in garlic and herbs (all white or all dark meat is available by request). Juicy steaks come unadulterated and unadorned, save for a healthy char–and peppercorns and garlic crust, if you so choose.

You should start–and end–your classic meal at the restaurant's well-worn bar. "There are some grand old restaurants in this town," the gravelly-voiced bartender will tell you, "but this–this–is the place to be."

Gene & Georgetti, 500 N Franklin St. (at Illinois St.); 312-527-3718 or geneandgeorgetti.com