Subject: Brief weekend in Chicago
Hi, Ziners.

I was in Chicago for this past holiday weekend attending a wedding and the attendant festivities. The weather was picture perfect. Cloudless, mild days with temperatures in the 60s. The locals were all out on the streets and in the parks trying not to waste a single ray of sunshine.

Unfortunately, the Cubs were not in town so I could not enjoy my favorite Chicago activity, seeing a baseball game at Wrigley Field. But we did have a great time seeing a city that looks its best on a bright spring day.

I have a new appreciation for Chicago thanks to the river cruise that we took sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation - It was terrific! We spent 90 minutes cruising the Chicago River looking at the fabulous architecture that makes Chicago unique. A docent from the foundation provided running lecture and commentary the whole time. I felt like I got a semester's worth of education on architecture and design - the features that distinguish the international school, post modernism, 1920s art deco, etc. I view the skyline now with a new appreciation.

The dining highlight surely was the terrific Italian food and huge portions at Bella Notte, 1372 West Grand Avenue, 312-733-5136. We started with grilled calamari in balsamic vinegar. The smoky flavor was perfectly set off by the sharpness of the vinegar. I missed the escarole soup for which they are famous in favor of a tray (not a plate, but more like a tray) of chicken, garlic, onions, peppers and cavatelli pasta in a tasty gravy. Entrees were also available in half portions but then you miss the opportunity for leftovers. With a bottle of wine for the table, coffee and dessert, our five dinners still cost less than $30 per person. This place is a keeper. Highly recommended.

The rest of the trip was wedding stuff. But I did want to note one other highlight. Sunday night during the reception in a downtown hotel, we noticed a wonderful fireworks show off Navy Pier. We thought they were doing it for the bride and groom but I understand that fireworks are a regular weekend occurrence. If you are in Chicago this summer, check out the show - Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:15 p.m. from now through the end of August.

Mark Los Angeles