Welcome to Front & Center, a series highlighting front of the house professionals in Chicago restaurants. Right now, Lisa Shames, the dining editor for CS Magazine, writes about Three Aces floor manager/co-owner Anthony Potenzo.
Normally, proficiency in air guitar and a nifty collection of vintage rock 'n' roll T-shirts don't top my list of requirements for front-of-the-house restaurant staff. Neither does an encyclopedic memory of some of my favorite old school bands (Iggy Pop, The Ramones, The Replacements, etc.).
But those just add to the charm of Three Aces' partner Anthony Potenzo. His, um, colorful use of the English language, delivered in a rat-a-tat-tat style all his own is another. (Don't take my word for it: Check out local artist Tony Fitzpatrick's wonderful ode to his childhood friend.)
But this Chicago native is more than just a funny guy and great storyteller (go ahead and ask him about the ol' days on Taylor Street). He knows a thing or two about running the front of a restaurant, too. He was, after all, one of the front-of-the-house guys at Jilly's on Rush Street for many years—just don't hold that against him.
Anthony's the guy most likely to shout out a warm welcome the minute you step inside this Taylor Street spot. He'll stop back, too, to make sure everything's going okay, whether you're getting a full meal at a table or just having a dish or two at the bar. Come back a few more times, and there just might be a shot with your name on it (don't say I didn't warn you). And as a former server, I can just tell he treats his staff right by the friendly banter that goes on between them.
It doesn't hurt that Three Aces serves up some terrific Italian-inspired food, too. "We have a real chef here," Anthony said proudly on my first visit here in regards to chef Matt Troost. It's that put-it-all-out-there passion and pride in the punk bar/restaurant and the people that work there that really comes through and why I can't get enough of this place (yes, my co-workers make fun of my obsession). Three Aces? More like a full house to me.
—Lisa Shames, CS