Boomer Beat: Richmond home to something old and new(er)
How about a trip to Richmond (yes, Richmond in McHenry County) in the middle of winter? You will be happy you did.
My husband and I have been there to browse the antique and collectible shops. But our trip doesn’t end there.
If you have lived in this area for a while, you have probably heard of Anderson’s Candy Shop, 10301 N. Main St. We arrived at their doorstep at a perfect time. They had just started to make their candy for Easter. My husband and I got one of the first chocolate-covered marshmallows. They are just delicious.
It was a special treat to meet owner Lief Anderson. He is, you guessed it, a Boomer and the third generation of the Anderson family to make chocolate.
Little did we know what a treasure we have in McHenry County. Lief shared with us some of the highlights of the family who has been making candy for almost a century.
Grandpa Anderson moved the business to Richmond in 1926 after he heard a highway to Minneapolis was going to go right through the town. In reality, another 15 years went by before the highway was built and the Depression, not to mention the rigors of World War II, almost wiped out the family business.
But Anderson’s survived and went on to thrive. We were surprised to hear from Lief their chocolates are known from coast to coast. Once we tasted the chocolate, it was no longer surprising. You know quality when you taste it.
From Anderson’s we went to another Richmond institution, but this one is, by comparison, a newcomer, Paisano’s on Broadway, 5614 Broadway St.
Boomer Phil Gilardi grew up in a close-knit Italian family with a mother and an aunt who were wonderful cooks.
Phil’s first calling in life was to be a hairdresser, a skill at which he excelled (Jaclyn Smith of the 1970’s “Charlie’s Angels” television series was among his clients, Phil said).
Needless to say, Phil could have spent the rest of his life in his shop. But he saw another opportunity when a space for a restaurant opened up in Half Day. His vision was to bring the wonderful food his mother and aunt had been cooking all their lives to the public. Again, Phil hit the bullseye and for 25 years, the restaurant prospered. Phil and his wife, Karen, decided it was time to retire.
About nine months after retirement, the couple found themselves sitting in a parking lot waiting for a movie theater to open.
Then and there they knew they needed a project, and the idea for Paisano’s on Broadway was born.
Locating the restaurant in Richmond was a gamble, but, boy, did it pay off. The restaurant is still growing. In March, they will be opening a new room with a casino atmosphere, complete with chandeliers and a small number of slot machines.
My husband and I were delighted to hear Phil’s story and to see how a restaurant can still retain a family feel.
The same recipes his mother made are still being used by a chef who learned directly from her. And, of course, Phil, his wife and his daughter put their heart and soul into the restaurant.
Our dinners were delicious and beautifully presented, but here is the secret to a great night at Paisano’s: Gelato.
Karen has brought this classic dessert to perfection. Call ahead if you want to visit Paisano’s on the weekend. During the warmer months, you will need to call two weeks in advance to reserve a table.
What a delight it was to meet Lief Anderson and Phil Gilardi. Richmond is THE place to go for something old and something new.
• Sue Neuschel shares her experiences as a Baby Boomer and offers unique places to visit in and around McHenry County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.