Today In The Culture, August 15, 2022: Aldo Zaninotto Launches Hospitality Group | Yippie Fest | Hot Dogs and Ethics (2023)

Ariana Zaninotto, Alec Zaninotto, Aldo Zaninotto /Photo: Rachel Bires


Many Illinois Infrastructure Works Included In $35 Billion Funding

“Illinois is set to drive $34.6 billion into improving roads, bridges, airports, transit, rail and ports across Illinois over the next six years,” reports the Sun-Times.Governor Pritzker said the program “would direct $20 billion… toward transportation, including 2,500 miles of roads and almost ten million square feet of bridge deck.Another $10 billion will go toward the state’s rail and transit systems, airports and ports.”Much of the Illinois Department Of Transportation’s funding for this program “is coming from the state’s $45 billion Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan but almost $16 billion more is expected to come… from the federal government.”

Permits Issued For Damen CTA Green Line Station

“Abuilding permit has been issued for the construction of the new Damen Green Line station. Planned for the southwest corner of the intersection of North Damen and West Lake, the new station will reconnect the local area to the CTA system, bridging the gap between the Ashland and California stops,”reports Urbanize Chicago.


Land & Sea Names Culinary Director

“One of Chicago’s largest restaurant groups, Land & Sea Dept., which includes Parson’s Chicken & Fish, Lonesome Rose, and theCherry Circle Roomhas [named] Dan Snowden as Land & Sea’s culinary director,” reports Eater Chicago. He was “last seen steering the ship at Heisler Hospitality, where he served as executive chef at [vegetable]-focused Bad Hunter and helping to launch Pizza Lobo.”

Southport Lanes Space Gets Japanese Spot ByChef Gene Kato

Boka has revealed the third and final prong of its Southport Corridor project. “Itoko, a Japanese project led by Gene Kato, should open this winter and join Lee Wolen’s GG’s Chicken Shop, while arriving before Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner debuts early next year at the former Southport Lanes,” reports Eater Chicago.

From A To Z And Back Again With Aldo Zaninotto Family

Local restaurateur and wine expert Aldo Zaninotto, known for wine-focused Logan Square spots Osteria Langhe, Testaccio and Soif Wine Lounge, has formed a hospitality collective,A to Z Hospitality. The group’s current restaurants reflect two decades-plus of experience in theinternational winetrade, as well as a family business. “Daughter Ariana Zaninotto, twenty-five, was generalmanagerof Testacciobefore working her way up to restaurant director, overseeingall threeconcepts while his sonAlec Zaninotto, twenty-three, iscapitalizing on his love of music and experience as a local DJ(AceHotel, Blind Barber, Fox Bar at Soho House)to become the booking coordinator for the DJprogram at Soif along with working the floor andengaging with guests throughout thenight. The new culinary director is Michael Lanzerotte, who will oversee all three A to ZHospitality concepts.” Says Zaninotto, “There are other amazing food and wine regions in Italy Ihave not yet had a chance toshowcase to Chicago that I would love tobring to life down the line.Forexample, Tre Venezie in Northeast Italy is an amazing area that pullsinfluence fromsurrounding countries like Slovenia and Austria in its wineculture and cuisine. I think aconcept based on thatcouldbe a great addition to the regional restaurants we havechosen tospecialize in.”

Trib Offers Anecdotes Of Chicagoans Cutting Back On Restaurant Food

“Doug Collins, twenty-eight, said on his way into McDonald’s that a year ago, he probably would have been sitting down for lunch in the Loop. These days, he’s trying to eat out less often and is choosing cheaper restaurants when he does,” reports the Trib in a sheaf of anecdotes. “Collins, who lives in Wicker Park and works in sales, said he’d noticed even his McDonald’s double cheeseburger get more expensive. It costs him about $2.99 now, which he estimates is about a dollar more than it did a year ago. ‘It’s just like everything’s a little bit more expensive now.'”

“What a Hot Dog Taught Me about Ethical Priorities”

“We met at a luncheonette on the Northwest side of Chicago that is renowned for its selection of red hots—overnight, my friend had gone from being a conscientious objector of carnivorous delights to something of a connoisseur—and it didn’t take long for the conversation to come around to the question of his conversion,”writes John Paul Rollert at Chicago Booth Review. “My friend is the type of person who has a black-and-white view of the world with an iron will to match any conviction he espouses. For years he had asserted his objections to eating meat with all the solemnity of a Puritan divine. Now he was busy wolfing down his second char dog.What gives? I wanted to know.His reply was not what I expected, and even then it struck me as an essential lesson in the practice of ethics. When I try to care about everything, I risk caring about nothing. (He more or less said.) I need to choose my battles.”Elaborationhere.

Second Trader Joe’s Union Formed

“In a landslide election, workers at a Trader Joe’s in Minneapolis voted to unionize. Final count: 55-to-5. They are the 2nd store to do so out of more than 500 TJs locations. They joined the independent Trader Joe’s Unite, which won 1st union in Massachusetts in July,” posts Washington Post labor reporter Lauren Kaori Gurley. “While we are concerned about how this new rigid legal relationship will impact Trader Joe’s culture, we are prepared to immediately begin discussions with their collective bargaining representative to negotiate a contract,” a spokespersonsaid in a release. The workers had safety concerns, reports VICE. “We’ve asked multiple times in different ways for policy changes, and have really gotten nowhere,” one worker said. “That was really the impetus for us to unionize in the first place. Our concerns have fallen on deaf ears.” From the New York Times: “In March 2020, the company’s chief executive, Dan Bane, sent a letter to employees referring to ‘the current barrage of union activity that has been directed at Trader Joe’s’ and asserting that union advocates ‘clearly believe that now is a moment when they can create some sort of wedge in our company through which they can drive discontent.'”


Amazon Debuts Surveillance Comedy Show, “Ring Nation”

“Amazon’s newest effort to normalize its surveillance network will feature footage from Ring surveillance cameras and commentary from comedian Wanda Sykes,” writes VICE of a new product from the conglomerate’s billion-dollar acquisition. “The show is being produced by MGM Television, which is owned by Amazon, and Big Fish Entertainment, which ran another dystopian reality show…’Live PD,’which centered on commentary of police footage.” The show launches September 26; Engadget calls it “what happens when ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ meets ‘Black Mirror.'” An executive is quoted, “From the incredible, to the hilarious and uplifting must-see viral moments from around the country every day, ‘Ring Nation’ offers something for everyone watching at home.”


American Library Association Responds To Legislation Threatening Librarians For Providing Information On Abortion Services

The ALA makes a statement, reports Publishers Weekly: Legislation and proposals to adopt legislation in several states “has prompted concerns that provisions within those bills may be used to pursue criminal or civil charges against library workers for providing library users access to reproductive health information, including information about abortion. Some of these bills incentivize individuals to pursue civil action against individuals with the promise of financial gain. It is the professional responsibility of library workers to curate resources and provide assistance to library users seeking information without imposing their personal beliefs or engaging in viewpoint discrimination. They do so in compliance with state and federal laws and the U.S. Constitution, including those provisions that safeguard information access and patron privacy.”

Donations To Defunded Michigan Library Come From Around World

“Patmos Library in Michigan has faced a yearlong attack from rightwing groups who want LGBTQ books, which make up .015% of the collection, removed from the shelves,”reports Bookriot. The library refused and its attackers got it defunded. “In response, two Jamestown residents started GoFundMe campaigns to raise money for the library. The largest one was started by Jesse Dillman, who said, ‘The Patmos Library in Jamestown is a core part of the community fabric. I firmly believe most residents here don’t share these views and desire to continue funding our local library.’ … It’s already raised over $59,000, [representing]more than 1,000 donors from across the world. The library is set to lose $245,000 in tax funding, but the money raised [should] keep the library open until they can secure ongoing funding.”


Eric Zorn Dossiers Hoosier Blogger John Kass

Eric Zorn, like many in Chicago media, wishes he didn’t have to write about former Chicagoan-turned-angry-blogger-and-podcaster John Kass, but returns to contest Kass’ endless anti-union storytelling and his obsession with George Soros: “I will summarize the controversy that former Tribune columnist John Kass returns to over and over in an effort to discredit not just the members of the Tribune’s newsroom union but the newspaper itself. I do so because I find it infamous how he is trying to harm the paper and the men and women who work there by advancing a false narrative… It all had the whiff of ‘fuckery,’ to use the colorful, apt term one of our union leaders employed when made aware of [Kass’] stealth move [to avoid the union by claiming he was part of the editorial board]. Whose idea it was—Kass’ or the bosses’—doesn’t matter now, but since Kass keeps distorting what actually happened I thought I’d bury his misrepresentation with a shovelful of truth.”

And: “What Kass hears as shrieks of pain and whimpering is laughter—laughter at this bitter, thin-skinned egotistical old crank who couldn’t stand appearing on the same page of newsprint as other columnists, who collapsed into a puddle at criticism that came not just from his colleagues—whom he refused to support when they were trying to form a union to protect journalists far less well paid than he was—but from all over, and who vibrated with paranoia at the routine reporting of his latest real estate transaction, and now is trying to recast the entire story with himself as a victim.”Much, much more at the link.


Smashed PlasticMakes Plans

“Smashed Plastic has cemented itself as a fixture in Chicago’s indie music scene. Of its sixteen employees, many are members of local bands. The plant’s city location — they’re in the Hermosa neighborhood—also means more frequent and deeper relationships with artists,”writes Emily Dreibelbis at Chicago magazine. “Smashed Plastic is one of thirty businesses in a co-working space called Workshop 4200, the home of the old Hammond Organ factory. They share the building with coffee roasters, candlemakers, printing presses, distilleries, and more. ‘Vinyl is a luxury item,’ [co-owner Andy] Weber says, referring to its relatively high price point compared with streaming platforms. ‘We’re kind of like a craft brewery or artisan coffee roastery, so we fit right in.'” Amid ongoing production issues and delays, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco has agreed “to buy a third machine… The partnership is a win-win-win: It accelerates growth for Smashed Plastic, records for Chicago musicians, and Wilco’s own vinyl runs. The new machine will increase the size of the total production pie enough to support Wilco’s larger orders of 30,000 or more while leaving space for other bands.”


Northwestern Names President

Michael Schill, president of the University of Oregon, will become president of Northwestern University, reports the Sun-Times. “Northwestern University has named a new president who says he is committed to bringing people of diverse backgrounds together and has a deep appreciation for Chicago’s theatre and architectural offerings.” Michael Schill “will become the seventeenth president of the university beginning this fall.”

Yippie Fest Returns

Yippie Fest will return with its sixth annual “happening” of acts onstage, August 19-21, presenting theater, performance, music and short films at The Den Theatre. Yippie Fest began in 2017 as an event inspired by the Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins Festival (1989-2016). The 2022 edition is its first live event since the pre-pandemic 2019 fest; 2020 and 2021 events were online. Friday features eight bands, including Chris Bock, Mike Felten Band, The Telepaths, The Rut, Tina and Paulette, Parallelicopter, Dark Room Men, and whitewolfsonicprincess. Twenty acts are spread across Saturday and Sunday, including theater, improv, standup, storytelling, sketch comedy, clowning, dance, and a radio show. Full schedule and tickets here.

JoJo The Gorilla’s Body Joins Field Museum

“The body of JoJo, a 485-pound silverback gorilla who died two weeks ago at the Brookfield Zoo, will become catalogued into the Field Museum’s mammal collection and made available for scientific study,”reports the Sun-Times.

Evanston Launches Guaranteed Income Pilot Program

The City of Evanston and Northwestern University today announced the launch of a Guaranteed Income Pilot Program, which will provide 150 households in Evanston with direct monthly financial assistance for one year, the city announces in a release. “This year-long pilot program will offer monthly payments to Evanston households to supplement the existing social safety net. Once a month for a year, participants will each receive $500 loaded onto a prepaid debit card to spend as they see fit. The program is funded largely by Northwestern University and the City of Evanston, including $700,000 in federal Rescue Plan funds. Evanston Community Foundation is also a partner.”

Gary,Indiana Cash Guaranteed Income ExperimentComes To End

The pilot program “launched in May 2021 when Gary became the thirty-sixth city to join Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. The pilot programs are also called demonstration projects–showing how a guaranteed or basic income can better the lives of the nation’s citizens and to show the need for federal and state help to make it happen,” reports The Crusader. “It is an initiative asking the nation’s leaders to rethink its policies on poverty, on the lives of the low-income and working poor that offers the solution of a guaranteed income…” Mayor Jerome Prince said the Gary GIVE program gave 125 residents “the little bit more that was needed each month to fix their cars so they could get to work, to buy good clean food to improve their quality of life, to improve their health… If we continue to multiply that, we start to realize a better community, a better state, and a better country. We can give our friends and neighbors the means to lift themselves up. We open our hearts and minds to the fact that there is great potential in everyone.”

Venture Capitalists Come For Unions

“A startup backed by Silicon Valley venture capitalists, Unit of Work is an unlikely candidate for the role of labor movement champion. Its outside investors have made fortunes backing technologies such as artificial intelligence, cryptocurrencies and video games. One is among California’s foremost critics of public-sector labor unions,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “These people used to multibillion-dollar sales and IPOs see a big opportunity in the atomized, restive condition of America’s workforce and the possibility of transforming it through a new era of unionization. ‘We only invest in areas where we think we can get a return,’ said Roy Bahat, head of Bloomberg Beta, the venture arm of billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s media empire. Unit’s business model works like this: The startup’s organizers provide free consulting to groups of workers organizing unions within their own workplaces—helping them build support to win elections, advising them on strategy in contract-bargaining sessions, guiding them through paperwork filings and around legal obstacles. Once a contract is in place, members of the new union can decide to pay Unit a monthly fee—similar to traditional union dues [sic]— to keep providing support.”

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