The iconic Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse turns 30 with a luncheon benefiting Misericordia

Legendary Rush Street hotspot, Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, celebrated its 30th anniversary in grand style on April 24 during a luncheon that benefited Misericordia. An overflow crowd turned out to celebrate with Gibson’s principals Steve Lombardo, Hugo Ralli, John Colletti, Kathy O’Malley Piccone, Greg Horan and a host of regulars, longtime employees and loyal fans.

The afternoon began with a cocktail reception with passed hors d’oeuvres, followed by a 3-course meal with menu favorites like filet mignon, double baked potatoes, creamed spinach and macadamia turtle pie and carrot cake.

Following lunch, Rick Kogan of the Chicago Tribune, hosted an hour-long retrospective panel discussion with Gibsons’ partners that included Steve, Kathy, Hugo (retired), John and Greg.

It was a fascinating discussion that touched on the early days (when every pencil was counted and they had no take-home bags) to the heady, celeb-filled days (that are ongoing).

Kathy shared a touching story of one of Mohammad Ali’s last visits to the restaurant with tears in her eyes. She said Jack Nicholson told her NOT to protect his table from fans as he “needed all the love he can get.” Billy Joel, a restaurant favorite, was told there would be a 45 minute wait before Kathy looked up and realized who was requesting a table. He still chose to wait like a normal customer (loved this). And Colletti shared an hysterically funny story about the time sexy actress Sharon Stone called for a carry out. John got to do the honors himself and was even offered a kiss of gratitude!

I was surprised to learn how much input from customers inspired menu selections. Famed NFL quarterback and legendary Chicago quarterback Sid Luckman was instrumental in deciding on the restaurant’s signature desserts insisting they be big and bold. He even flew Steve to Miami to check out Wolfie’s that is famous for over-sized servings. Still Steve wasn’t convinced so Luckman had his driver pick up desserts from all over town to compare.

The late Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, had his wife Laverne give up her coleslaw recipe and the famous Gibson’s ribs were inspired by those served at the former popular Rush Street hot spot, Singapore.

Steve spoke about how the name came about, a combination of many happenstances that included inspiration from the late John Gibson (a man-about-town who worked for the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau), the Gibson’s martini and the simple fact that they’d waited until the last minute to decide. (See video here)

The event upstairs was by-invite-only but tickets were offered at $100 each with all proceeds benefiting Misericordia Heart of Mercy, a nonprofit that supports over 600 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

More than 300 people watched the panel discussion on screens set up downstairs at the restaurant so everyone could feel they were a part of it.

It was a thrill to relive the memories and see so many iconic photos as they scrolled on multiple screens throughout the event. Although, my fondest memory was getting engaged the day the restaurant opened and going there to celebrate, as we still do for every milestone (and just for fun too).

Love and congrats Gibsons! You just keep getting better with age! 🙂

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