BYOB Suggestions From Gentile’s Wine Shop

Lindsey Arquilla

Ever wonder which wine would best pair with your dinner? Or which Chicago restaurants host BYOB (bring your own beverage) nights? Well, look no further, Foodies: you’ve come to the right place. Step right up and take a seat while I serve you a dish of Vino Delish.

Decades ago, on the corner of Taylor and Racine, you could find an Italian family owned pharmacy.  In 2007, the medicine man’s son, Flavio, turned the vacant spot into Gentile’s Wine Shop. I had the chance to speak with Don Cross, the shop’s first employee.

I have been coming here for a couple of years now. Who are your most frequent patrons, demographically?

There’s a mix, generally. We see a lot of UIC students, but at the same time there are many middle, to upper middle class people around here that come in.

Do you mainly get “middle class-ers” in here for the weekly wine tastings?

No, we still see plenty of UIC kids. There’s a misconception that our wine tastings cost something, but they are actually free every Friday evening.

Oh, really? Walk me through a typical wine tasting at your shop.

Well, sometimes we set them up and other times the wine reps set them up for us. It really just depends on the week, and the wine.

Are they generally very educational, in respect to the wine itself and which wines go with which types of foods?

They can be. But they’re also just a chance for the tasters to try different wines and learn which is their new favorite. We used to have cheese and chocolate and crackers for sale all the time, but now the vendors will usually set them out at their tastings. We’re probably going to start selling munchies again soon.

Gentile’s is part of Printers Row Wine Shop, correct?

Yes, when Flavio’s father owned the pharmacies, Dearborn was one of them. Then, when the spaces opened up, Flavio saw the opportunity to make them into wine shops. Printers Row opened in 2004; Gentiles in 2007.

Flavio—that sounds Italian—are most of your wines from Europe?

No, we definitely have a variety from all over the world. We just got this Savon Blanc in from South Africa today!

Wow! So, the majority of your products are obviously wine. But what else do you sell?

We have different liquors and liqueurs, but the biggest seller is beer. We have a very popular line of craft beer from independent brews. Stone is a huge seller right now, along with Great Lakes and Two Brothers from Warrenville. But, you know, the UIC guys like their PBR. It’s refreshing. Gotta give it that.

Yeah, PBR seems to be a cheap Chicago favorite. So, since our site is about Chicago restaurants, I have to ask: how often do you get customers asking about different wines to bring to BYOB spots?

It happens all the time. Seriously, just tell them to come in here and ask and we’ll hook them up with whatever they need! There’s a wine for every meal.

What would you pair with a spicy dish?

For something like Thai, I would go with a white Rhiesling. That’ll cut right through the spice with its sweetness. Sushi would go great with it, too.

Ah, I see. So for foods with a kick, go with a white.

Yes, they tend to offer a nice balance and contrast. So Mexican, Indian—well, actually, Indian foods are great with beer!

Is that right? I love Indian!

Yes! Me, too! When I first moved here I lived on Devon, and there are tons of Indian restaurants around there. Sometimes, you just gotta have a good beer with a meal. Like, when I have Mexican food—I just want a crisp, light beer to cut through it. Or a margarita!

Haha, yeah, who doesn’t always want a margarita?! Really, though, for a more obvious question, what would be the best pairing with French or Italian food?

French or Italian wine! It’s a no brainer there. There are just so many!

That makes sense. So Don, what is your favorite wine in the shop?

That’s a tough one…there’s so many. I would have to say…Sweet Bru…or Belle Glos…or Gotim Bru…hell, any of my picks.

Your picks?

Yeah, we have tags below wines that we here at the shop choose as our favorites.

I can’t believe I never noticed that about this place—that is really cool! What would you say are the major differences between this shop and Printers Row?

Printers Row has more of the higher end wines, mostly because of their area. We here at Gentile’s sell great products but certainly not as high up on the tier as downtown where people are looking for a higher end bottle.

No matter the area of Chicago, running a wine shop has to be different from working at a liquor store or other beverage retail spot.

No doubt. The major difference is the clientele. Our customers come here for a purpose: to learn. That’s what we’re here for.

There you have it, fellow wine enthusiasts. Gentile’s Wine Shop on Taylor and Printers Row Wine Shop on Dearborn are there for the taking. Stop by either one on your way to your favorite BYOB restaurants (we have taken the liberty of listing several of our favorites below) for your appetizing pleasures. Salute!

Sushi: “Shiso” – North Ave

Thai: “Thai Classic”: – Clark

Mexican: “Cosina Grill”- W Foster

Chinese: “Tao Ran Ju” – Wentworth

Turkish: “Café Orchid” – Addison

Morocan: “Tagine” – Rockwell …Rhiesling (all above)

American BBQ: “Smoque” – Pulaski … Savon Blanc

Vegan: “Earwax” – Milwaukee …Pinot Grigio

Italian: “Trattoria Caterina” – Dearborn…Italian Vino

French: “Crepe Town” – Sheridan…French  Vin

Greek: “Greek Corner” – Damen…Greek Krasi

*Footnote: the meatier the meat, the heartier the red

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