The inspiration for the blackboard comes from a very famous restaurant in Chicago named Tufano’s that has been around for generations. The concept of a blackboard is common in many of the great family-owned restaurants in Chicago where I grew up.
Blackboard menu items often appeared when some friend or family member of the restaurant owner would come in and say, “Tomorrow, make me pasta with peas” and the next day, that would go on the blackboard because it was special for a given person or a given group.
At Fat Clemenza’s, we’ll always keep a tight, core menu that’s really, really good and then expand on that menu daily on our blackboard.
The blackboard allows the chefs in our restaurant to play every day. It gives our customers over-the-top dishes that are not on the menu, and that keeps the restaurant interesting for everyone. Our customer base comes so often, they could easily blow through the menu. So by having the blackboard, we get to have versatility. We usually decide a day or two days in advance what our specials will be. We also enjoy setting traditions like “Fresh Fish Friday” – which ensures we only serve what was just caught here locally every Friday night. It gives our Chefs center stage for amazing, gourmet-style dishes. In addition, we do risottos, which is a rarity for most Italian restaurants because it has to be made fresh and that can take up to 18 mintues.