Frank Rotondo, longtime bartender at L. Woods, Bones, Kenilworth Inn, dead at 83

Frank Rotondo, longtime bartender at L. Woods, Bones, Kenilworth Inn, dead at 83

Chicago Sun-Times |
Maureen O'Donnell |
Nov 9, 2018
Original Article: "Frank Rotondo, longtime bartender at L. Woods, Bones, Kenilworth Inn, dead at 83"

It didn’t matter if you had a bad day, a bad check-up, or your car and love life sputtered.

Frank Rotondo would have your drink waiting for you and maybe a little advice, if you wanted it.

Mr. Rotondo spent 48 years tending bar at L. Woods Tap and Pine Lodge and its previous incarnations at the same Lincolnwood address: the Kenilworth Inn and Bones.

One time, he also served drinks at a Pump Room gathering where Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. hung out.

When he started bartending, Richard Nixon was president, and customers wanted just a shot and a beer. He kept pouring ’em through the era of mixed cocktails, to umbrella drinks, to the rise of craft beer and good American wine.

Popular bartender Frank Rotondo with broadcasters Marianne Murciano and Bob Sirott.

“He was the best,” said Lettuce Entertain You chairman Rich Melman, who credits Mr. Rotondo for contributing to the success of the restaurant and hospitality company he founded.

Thanks to Mr. Rotondo, “people come back,” said Melman, who described him as “part therapist, part bartender, part friend.”

“People would come in just to see him,” said Mr. Rotondo’s wife Jamie.

He had kind, wise eyes that looked like he’d seen some life. At work, he wore dress pants, crisp white shirts and a black vest emblazoned with his first name.

“If you called central casting in Hollywood and said, ‘Send me a bartender,’ they’d send you Frank,” said Chicago broadcaster Bob Sirott, an investor with Lettuce Entertain You.

Mr. Rotondo died Oct. 11 at 83 at his home in Hanover Park, according to his wife, who said he’d been in failing health since suffering a stroke in July.

Thanks to Mr. Rotondo, “people come back,” said Melman, who described him as “part therapist, part bartender, part friend.”

“People would come in just to see him,” said Mr. Rotondo’s wife Jamie.

He had kind, wise eyes that looked like he’d seen some life. At work, he wore dress pants, crisp white shirts and a black vest emblazoned with his first name.

“If you called central casting in Hollywood and said, ‘Send me a bartender,’ they’d send you Frank,” said Chicago broadcaster Bob Sirott, an investor with Lettuce Entertain You.

Mr. Rotondo died Oct. 11 at 83 at his home in Hanover Park, according to his wife, who said he’d been in failing health since suffering a stroke in July.

A child of Italian immigrants, he grew up in Paterson, New Jersey. He was driving west to meet a friend in California when he totaled his car in an accident in Chicago.

“He was going to continue to California, but he met me,” Jamie Rotondo said.

They were married in 1971. She was working at Allegretti’s Restaurant at 4124 W. Peterson at the time. Mr. Rotondo joined her there, learning to mix drinks.

He had the type of intangible quality that endears hairdressers and barkeeps to customers. “He listened well,” his wife said.

People would come in looking for him, Sirott said, asking, “Is Frank working? What are his hours this week?”

“He’d always want to talk sports and what you were doing,” said Sirott. “He was a good interviewer. He was a guy who’d always turn [the attention] back on you.”

And whether he was serving Bill Murray, actor William Devane or Chicago Bears quarterback Bobby Douglass, “He treated everybody like a VIP,” Sirott said.

“Getting behind the bar with him was like going back to school, truly,” said L. Woods manager Patrick Gallivan. “He would go out of his way to introduce me to his regulars.”

The Rotondos raised their four boys in Hanover Park. All went to college, his wife said.

Thirty-eight years ago, Mr. Rotondo was diagnosed with lung cancer. But he quit smoking and survived. And he came back in one piece from serving in the Army in the Korean War, where he drove a tank and never forgot the bitter cold.

It wasn’t easy to be on his feet behind the bar every day, but “he had good legs, he always said,” according to his wife.

In 48 years, he probably mixed hundreds of thousands of Manhattans, old-fashioneds, whiskey sours and gin-and-tonics. But he never drank at work. At home, he’d have a scotch on the rocks. He preferred Clan MacGregor to pricier scotch whiskies.

For cars, “He liked his Caddies,” said his wife. “But, as he got older, he liked to drive his Toyota RAV-4.”

Mr. Rotondo wasn’t crazy about the craft cocktail craze.

“Not long before he passed, he was complaining about the new drinks,” she said, saying “a drink doesn’t need that many ingredients.”

He is also survived by sons Chris, John, Rob and Michael, his sister Rose Lijoi, brothers Joseph, Anthony and Vince and seven grandchildren.

Because he was a bartender, “he always had cash in his pocket,” said his daughter-in-law Lisa Nitti-Rotondo. “When he saw the grandkids, he’d always fold up a $5 bill and give it to them.”

At Mr. Rotondo’s services last month, his sons tucked some Lucky Strikes and a lighter in their father’s casket. And his wife said, “Each of his grandchildren put $5 in his pocket.”

Media Contact

Emily Clark pr@leye.com 773-878-7340

You May Also Like...

In The Restaurants
Thanksgiving 2018
Nov 16, 2018

Thanksgiving is a time for friends, family and everyone in-between. To celebrate this special…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Where to Eat Lunch
Nov 10, 2018

For that one hour escape from your office, you want to make sure to make most of your lunch hour.…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Here’s Where to Happy Hour
Nov 1, 2018

It's 5 o'clock somewhere! Here are all the happy hour deals at select Lettuce Entertain You…

read more >
In The Restaurants
It’s Apple Season: Where To Eat ‘Em
Oct 16, 2018

Yeah, yeah, pumpkin this and pumpkin that, but let us not forget about our other favorite fall…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Best Spots for Group Dining
Sep 18, 2018

You finally got the whole crew to agree on the same day and time, now you just have to find the…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Your Guide to Game Day Grub 2018
Sep 14, 2018

Fall is the kick-off to football season and no matter what team you are rootin' for, several of our…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Kid-Friendly Dining Options and Activities
Sep 12, 2018

You've been to the zoo, the beach, the pool... the kids are starting to get stir crazy. We've got…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants
Sep 12, 2018

Finding gluten-free friendly restaurants has gotten a lot easier than it used to be. At Lettuce…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Best Time of the Year: Patio Season
Aug 10, 2018

Warm weather is here, which means al fresco dining is too! We've rounded up the best patios at…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Here’s Where to Eat the Best Mac and Cheese
Jul 14, 2018

In celebration of everyone's favorite cheesy dish we’ve rounded up some of our favorite…

read more >
In The Restaurants
All The Reasons Why We Love Fried Chicken
Jul 4, 2018

Fact: there's never a bad time for fried chicken. Grab it on your way to the beach, order it up for…

read more >
How To
Perfect Pair: Champagne & Fried Chicken
Jul 3, 2018

Fried chicken and Champagne? Really? Yep, you read that right. Kevin Bratt, Wine Director of Joe's…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Your Guide to the 26 Best Burgers to Try During National Burger Month
Apr 30, 2018

Burgers deserve a full month of celebrations which is why May has been declared National Burger…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Luck of the Irish: St. Patrick’s Day Treats
Mar 14, 2018

St. Patrick's Day is Saturday, March 17 and our restaurants are striking gold with special…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Get a Slice for Pi Day
Mar 13, 2018

We all love a good pun, especially when it has to do with food! Mathematicians and foodies rejoice…

read more >
In The Restaurants
St Paddy’s Day 2018
Mar 1, 2018

St. Patrick's Day calls for corned beef, cabbage and all of the beer! Lucky for you, our restaurants…

read more >
In The Restaurants
This One’s For Our Indecisive Diners
Feb 26, 2018

For all of you indecisive order-ers out there - the "I want to order one of everything on the menu"…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Big Game 2018: Where to Watch and What to Carry-out
Jan 25, 2018

Need a place to watch the big game on Sunday, February 4, 2018? The below restaurants are a great…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Vegetarian Comfort Food
Dec 28, 2017

A New Year's resolution that we are making is to incorporate more veggies into our diet, but it's…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Lettuce Date Night
Aug 15, 2016

 

read more >
In The Restaurants
Christmas Eve 2018: Chicagoland
Nov 6, 2012

If you are looking to dine out this Christmas Eve, we have restaurants that are open on Monday,…

read more >

Recent Posts

In The Restaurants
A Gift Guide for the Food Lover in Your Life
Nov 18, 2018

Whether a birthday, graduation or any other of the countless holidays, we're here to make selecting…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Thanksgiving 2018
Nov 16, 2018

Thanksgiving is a time for friends, family and everyone in-between. To celebrate this special…

read more >
How To
The Perfect Party Appetizers
Nov 15, 2018

A well-crafted appetizer is the perfect way to make sure your guests won't go hungry so you can…

read more >
How To
A Guide to Selecting the Perfect Thanksgiving Wines
Nov 15, 2018

Fact: wine stores are intimidating. More truth: we're here to help! We've tapped the minds of our…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Your Thanksgiving Recipe Guide
Nov 15, 2018

Thanksgiving is the time to gather 'round the table and gobble up some scrumptious food. If you love…

read more >
In The Restaurants
$12 Burgers and Brews Wednesdays at Tokio Pub
Nov 14, 2018

Wednesdays just got a whole lot tastier with Tokio Pub's new Burgers & Brews! For just $12,…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Wildfire’s Cornbread Stuffing
Nov 14, 2018

This Thanksgiving, give your stuffing some southern influence with Wildfire's Cornbread Stuffing. To…

read more >
Openings
The Newest Wow Bao Location at 46 E. Chicago
Nov 14, 2018

Getting tired of your same old carry-out order? You're in luck! Wow Bao's newest, fully-automated…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Thanksgiving Eve and Black Friday Specials 2018
Nov 13, 2018

Do you have friends and family in town for the Thanksgiving weekend? Beyond Turkey Day, our…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Ema’s Pumpkin Hummus
Nov 12, 2018

Enjoy your favorite fall ingredient the Mediterranean way and make Ema's Pumpkin Hummus by Chef CJ…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Wildfire’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts
Nov 12, 2018

Wildfire's classic roasted Brussels sprouts is the perfect dish for any dinner table this fall.…

read more >
How To
8 Ways to Use Your Lettuce Gift Card This Holiday Season
Nov 11, 2018

Racking your brain for the perfect holiday gift? Here's an idea, how about a Lettuce Entertain You…

read more >
Lettuce Consulting Group

Grow Your Business

Learn More
Career Opportunities

Join Our Team

Search Jobs
Latest Articles

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign Up Now

Lettuce on Instagram

Checkout our feed @lettuceentertainyou!