An Italian-American Tradition!

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Make no mistake about it,  Italian women are great cooks.  And so are Mexican, Greek, Polish, Ukrainian and Romanian women, for that matter.  Baby boomers didn’t grow up on fast food.

But most people who may not be privileged enough to have ever seen the inside of an Italian-American Social Club, may not know of a tradition that pre-dates the Iron Chef by decades.

Hi, I’m Don Calarco, first-born son of Dominic Calarco, a life-long resident of “the Old Neighborhood” at Grand and Ogden in Chicago’s Little Italy North.  For as long as I can remember (I was born in ’48) my father belonged to the Boomerang Club, an Italian-American Men’s Club that stood on the same street corner from 1928 to 2009. For the most part they started out as a baseball team and set up their ‘club house’, like most kids, in a storefront.  Back in those days, a landlord would rent to just about anyone who could show them some money and some of them had jobs.  Dad was 18 when he joined the Boomerangs and by the time 2009 rolled around, he was the last living ‘original’ member. italian

The club closed on October 6, 2009.

Well, to make  a long story short, baseball lasted a few years and as the members started to get a little older, their habits changed a bit. Baseball was set aside and replaced with a few dozen decks of cards,
daily jig-saw and crossword puzzles and, believe it or not…pots and pans.  The ‘club’ became a home-away-from-home for these boys who pledged to never grow old and cooking became a very important part of the daily routine. Since no gentleman’s club would have a woman in the kitchen, the tradition grew from the need for someone to do the cooking of the food that each member contributed in one way or another. Like a fire-station having assigned cooks, but they all fight fires, so went the cooking duties in the old Boomerang’s Italian-American Men’s clubs.

On occasion, like the shootout at the OK Coral, someone would come along and challenge a recipe. It would go sort of like this: “Hey Mario, this sausage and peppers is good. Did you make this?” “Yeah, I made it. Why!” “I think I can do better”.
Like two old ladies arguing over laundry about who makes the best zuppa di pesce.  They would set the date, buy the groceries and have a cook-off. All men. Only a few guests. It was serious business.

Both chef’s would prepare their recipes with full detail and submit them to the judges. italianThe audience watches the preparation, and may even be asked to assist at times. The meals are prepared and the judges, and audience digs in!

To be fair, there are no rules. It’s simply which one tastes best. Three judges have last word and two out of three wins bragging rights. The competitors shake hands and move on!

I have never had so much fun hanging out with these ‘old’ guys.  So very much to miss.
So much to pass on to new generations.

Don’t forget to enter to win a “Party with the Romeo’s”. A true Good-fellas experience.

This blog is dedicated to the men (my father included) who created and modified the recipes that became history; some of the favorites of the members, guests and friends who enjoyed a meal or two at the Boomerang Club at Grand and May streets in Chicago, as well as contributions from uncles, cousins and friends who shared the kitchen duties, where men cook for men and they do it very well!


Three generations! Dad, His #1 son and one of four devoted grandsons, Jeremy.

This incredible site is here for fun, challenge, good food, great meal tips,
“growing recipes”, cooking lessons and  recipe exchange.
If you happen upon this page and find some of the recipes interesting, feel free to drop us a comment.  Or, even better, leave us a recipe of your own.  There’s just one rule.  It can be your mother’s or grandmother’s recipe, but your father, grand father, brother, cousin or uncle had to have made some changes.  This is all about men-cooking. This could be fun.

The man himself. Dominic Calarco
Big Mike, guarding the door.
An average day
Julio. The look-out! Always the best dressed.
Dom Calucci in the hat and Louie Saletta in white at the back table
If only that phone booth could talk. What stories it would tell.
Young visitors learning the rules of engagement.
Vince Pagone proudly holding a bottle from his Grand Avenue Underground Winery. His dad (Jake) was an original Boomerang member.
Food is ready. Come and get it!
Dig in! Looks good enough to eat.
Although the sign said "Members Only", the door was open to anyone who was hungry. Excellent charge!
Looks like a serious card game starting. Not unusual!
A genuine Poker Face!
What can I say? This is Louie!
Cooking class will now begin. My 2nd granddaughter, Danielle and I.
A hug for the chef. With Granddaughter #1, Gianna.
Getting help in the kitchen from my dear wife, Cindy.
My only grandson, Richard. He is not sure if he wants to be a chef, a ninja, a writer, a sniper, an anthropologist or a deep sea explorer. This is the boy who will be king!
At my best!
My Mexican Cooking instructors, Dos Marias.
My partner and I cooking for sixty of our employees and their families in Acapulco.

TIP:  Place your cursor on a photo to pause it for viewing.

To leave a recipe, just click on “Leave a Comment” below and paste it there.  It will be part of the site within a few hours.   There’s even a few cooking lessons for those who got started a little late.  Click here

Check out these great Recipe Books. They make great gifts:

The Cooking Mastery Guide


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