Food & Drink

Chef Christian Ragano Takes Us Inside His Day Off

It's rare that a chef spends much time outside of his or her restaurant, so when they do have a day off, we wonder where they go.

In the case of Christian Ragano, the Executive Chef at Cindy’s at Chicago Athletic Association, he doesn’t get a lot of time off these days. When he does, however, he likes to sleep in, eat out and spend time with his daughter. Here are some of Christian’s favorite things to do on his day off.

Chicago Athletic Association: What’s your typical day off?
Christian Ragano
: First things first: sleep in! I’ll spend time with my daughter. And I’ll visit friends for a while and it’s pretty much doing laundry. It’s horrible, but that’s life right now. That’s my day off and then I’ll then grab something to eat.

Chicago Athletic Association: Where do you like to grab a bite?
CR: Avec for sure. I just love it. The people who work there, the atmosphere and the food is all fantastic. It’s simple and done well and I can’t stop eating the chicken liver pate with rhubarb jam and mint salad toast. Before the hotel opened, I’d go three times a week just for that.

If I want to eat something sloppy it’s a burger at Au Cheval. I love those burgers. It’s just getting down and dirty with a serious burger. I feel disgusting after I eat it, but it feels so good to feel that disgusting once in a while: juice dripping down your hands, it’s the perfect burger if you ask me. It’s childhood on a plate.

Spacca Napoli hands down has the best pizza in the city: perfect dough, spectacular ingredients and they keep it simple. I get the Bufalina.

I like going to Little Goat Diner for breakfast once in a while. When they run the breakfast dog special I destroy that. It’s a goat and beef hot dog wrapped in a sourdough pancake with two fried eggs on top with hot sauce maple syrup. It’s inner fat kid food. It’s so good. I have an inner fat kid. He makes me feel guilty all the time.

And Boltwood in Evanston (where Christian currently lives). I like [chef] Brian Huston a lot. The food is always solid. I haven’t been back in too long though.

Chicago Athletic Association: What do you like to do with your daughter?
CR: Simple stuff like sitting on the couch and watching TV. She makes me chocolate chip cookies. She just wants to hang out. She’s obsessed with Legos so we spend a lot of time building. She loves to roll around and play monsters and zombies. She’s having a Halloween-themed birthday party and she’s going as a zombie princess. She likes to go fishing and I take her fishing at Lake Julian Trout Farm. She loves playing with the worms and she also loves touching the guts when the guy in the bait shop butchers the fish. She loves going to Six Flags. I despise rides, but she’s absolutely fearless.

Chicago Athletic Association: Do you have any favorite museums?
CR: The Art Institute of Chicago. I’m right across the street at work. The last time I went was about a month before we opened. I love the Modern Wing and the Marc Chagall windows. I find new artists to appreciate every time I go.

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