Mary Ann Salvi Visoky

Mary Ann Salvi-Visoky has lived in Northbrook her whole life. She is well known in the Northbrook community for her family’s restaurant Caravelle and Tenelli’s. She discusses what it was like as a child in Northbrook, and how small the community once was about 50 years ago. She says how quiet Northbrook used to be,…

Recorded on January 17, 2013. Length: 23 Minutes.


MV: Okay, my great uncle. Ray, Renato Cinelli came from Lucca, I believe probably in the early 1900s, and really, I don’t know how he came to Northbrook, but he came to Northbrook and then he called my grandfather, Julio Tinelli to come to Northbrook with his family. So they came over in 1950. My mother, her — her parents, and my uncle, and aunt, and my uncle in the meantime had opened a restaurant and it was called something to Ascana on the corner of Shermer and Waukegan road, along with the gas station at the time, and then eventually they changed the name to Northbrook tavern. When my uncle passed away, he left the land to my grandfather Julio Tinelli. This was at Waukegan and Shermer —

SA: On the Northwest corner —

MV: Right — where Walgreens is today.

SA: Correct.

MV: So then my parents got married in 1955, and they opened up the Caravelle restaurant at that site and they were there until 1971 and they left and then went to the corner of you want to say Willow and Waukegan road where the willow fair is, I believe that’s what it’s called now.

SA: Now you said that they opened the Caravelle —

MV: They opened the cure vault on the corner after my uncle died. My parents got married and they then open they changed the name from Northbrook Tavern to the Caravelle.

SA: Okay.

MV: On Waukegan insurance and they were there until 1971 and then they went to the corner — the Caravelle moved then to the corner of Waukegan and Willow — well — where the I believe it’s called the willow —

SA: Fest —

MV: Festival is today.

SA: Got it, and in the meantime then a restaurant named Tenellis.

MV: Tenellis and came about after my parents took the Caravelle and moved to Waukegan and Willow. My aunt Clara, which is my mother’s sister took over and had made it to now called the Tenellis restaurant. But in the meantime Glenview then a small place in Glenview called Tenellis restaurant, so they close that one they move to the corner of Waukegan and Shermer, my parents moved out and they went to Waukegan and Willow. So we had two family Italian restaurants down the street from each other.

SA: And weere are these the only two Italian restaurants within downtown Northbrook —

MV: Yes area for many years for many years from 1971 until when Tenellis closed what 2009 – 10 I don’t know when it closed then Walgreens went there.

SA: So there weren’t many chains around at that time. If somebody wanted a pizza in Northbrook, it probably came from one of your —

MV: That or I remember there was pizza paradise was there, so that was another little small play. So there were like, but to eat and sit down there’s either ours or Tenellis.

SA: Okay, and your land was a small pocket of land that was surrounded by property from techny.

MV: Right.

SA: How did your family come to get that land?

MV: Well, the story goes, that there was a gentleman who owned all that land, Tecnhy — that were the Techny churches today, and we’re across the street is the ponds, but used to be a school bus company used to be there, and then where the Caravelle was, well, the story goes that the gentleman had debts and he couldn’t pay his debts. So he went to court or something like that, and he said okay, I’m gonna donate all my land except for these two pieces a parcel, parcel cross the street, which was a bus company at the time he gave to his lawyer, and then he retained the other property where the Caravelle used to be, which is now the Willow festival. So that’s how they — it was a woman who owned it, then wanted to sell it, and my father purchased the land.

SA: Do you know that this man donated all the other property?

MV: All, that’s — that’s the story that I’ve been told. Yes.

SA: Okay, and so then you were family. How many acres was —

MV: Six acres,

SA: Six acres, and that’s where you established your restaurant there and how did it start out and how did it grow?

MV: Well, it started out, actually, you know, on Willow or on Shermer and Waukegan and then what do you mean by grow?

SA: I’m — you added a banquet room.

MV: Oh, we — oh, yes. We had the banquet room because that was something that was called in Northbrook. We didn’t have any banquet halls at all. The one banquet hall that they would have was when there was a Holiday Inn on Skokie Boulevard I believe, and they had a hall but there was no place around where people really needed a place to have a function, a local function that could hold up to 200 people for school events could come, small weddings, you know, people who didn’t want to spend a lot of money on you know, going to a hotel downtown.

SA: What year did you add your banquet hall?

MV: The banquet hall was added in 1980.

Okay, and there was a real need for it.

MV: Yes, there was a real need for because like I said, we had we did a lot of weddings, we did a lot of school functions for Glenbrook North for the Northbrook junior high, for anything around, the fire department. Yeah, it was a place that was local that people could come and know that they would have me serve good food.

SA: Tell us how you ran your restaurant. Who and your family was involved in it.

MV: Involved? Well, all my sisters were invalid until someone started getting married and moved away.

SA: How many sisters did you have?

MV: I have a — four sisters, including — not including me, so there’s five my mother had two sets of twins. The oldest and the youngest are twins, and the middle one isn’t. We’re all girls, so five girls my dad had. So three of us actually really worked there. There was my sister. Well we all work there it — you know, when we were growing up. You know, we were doing salad bar, you know — hostessing, but then once everyone left there was only three of us that were there. My twin sister, my sister Lisa, who’s the younger set of twins, myself, and my parents.

SA: Who was the cook, the bartender, the bookkeeper? What — what family?

MV: Oh. My mom — my mother was the cook. She always was the cook, and my father was always the bookkeeper. He took care of the money, so when did the back of the house went to the front of the house. I did the front of house where I was supervised. I was the manager who supervised the banquets and you know, reservations and stuff like that. The other sisters all pitched in — you know — they basically did the same thing. After my dad passed away, then I became you know, the bookkeeper, the manager, and my mom was always there cooking.

SA: And we heard she was a good cook, too.

MV: Yes.

SA: And so it had a you had a bar in there and you had a fireplace.

MV: Oh, in the — in the main rooom — in them — in one of the main rooms that you walked in, had a fireplace. It was brought in over — it was called Villa Venice. That used to be on Milwaukee Avenue, and they brought the original building but, it was the roof that they brought over, and so they put the roof there we did not put that on that was zero, my father purchased it. But yes, that was the famous thing, it was the roof of Villa Venice. Were you know — Waukegan or not Waukegan road, excuse me, Milwaukee Avenue. So yes, that was probably one of the nicest rooms I mean, we have the banquet room, that was nice, but it was cozy room because it had the fireplace and you could sit around it.

SA: Would you say that they were mostly Northbrook people that came to your restaurant, was it a real community place? Or did you have people from afar?

MV: Well, no. It was — it was a very much a community restaurant, and communities from all over because if you recall, it used to be a dry county when ??? Northfield, Glencoe, they all dry counties, so there were only — Northbrook was one of the few places where you could serve I don’t know believe it’s time for it was just beer and wine when they first started or you could have, you know, liquor and beer and wine. So everybody came from all over. No, we had, we knew people from everywhere, no matter.

SA: The house specialty was your menu, mostly pizza, or did you have a house specialty?

MV: Our house specialty was chicken Vesuvio, and our deep dish pizza because we brought the first deep dish pizza into the North Shore. Well, I mean, all our food was, you know, pretty much a lot of pasta, but chicken Vesuvio was one of our number ones.

SA: Was it all homemade? Did mom actually make her dough and roll it?

MV: Yes, and then modern times came and you know — we’re — save your little cost towards the end when you go — is you know, you buy your products then because they make them fresh for you and — and look for labor costs, but yes. All the way until probably last couple of years that we were in business.

SA: And did you have a special wine? Anything from your hometown or your origin?

MV: No, no, we just we did sell a lot of Italian wine but no nothing from our — from our origin.

SA: And tell me a story about the mafia. Did you ever have any relationship that they came to?

MV: At one time my dad had told me when the Villa Venice is if you remember as long is — what I was told was mafia used to go there all the time, and they took it down, and then because there were only very few restaurants in the North Shore, especially that the time and liquor they had approached my dad a few times for payouts and he said, nope, no payouts, and he come back they come back a few times, and no, no because he said, I’m once you say yes, then they’ll be after you. So no, they never bothered him anymore.

SA: And they never bothered you girls.

MV: No, no, no, no, no, no. Because, you know, you’re talking about something that happened — it started like in the 50s you know, and before that, I think even when they grew up when in the 30s, 40s, when my uncle’s were here, they used to talk about the Black Hand, you know, so no, that’s

SA: And there was not much ethnicity in Northbrook or diversity at that time.

MV: Not at all.

SA: You had a great a piano player. Tell us about him.

MV: Oh, Deion. We had Deion and then we had Tommy Rigsby. Deion was there when we first started opened in the 70s, and then he left but then Tommy Rigsby was everybody’s favorite, and he used to come every Friday and Saturday, and he played until he was about 80 years old. So last five years we were there, we didn’t have them. Because he just got up there in age, but what a wonderful man.

SA: Was he an African American?

MV: Yes, yes. Wonderful. Just — just — everyone loved him. People could just come to hear Tommy, they wouldn’t eat (laughing) they would just come here because he played the blues.

And he was a great draw.

SA: That’s — that’s wonderful to hear, and tell us about the relationship your dad had. I know he was Catholic and St. Anne’s tell us where St. Anne’s was located across from your restaurant and — and how good your dad was to St. Anne’s

MV: St. Anne’s was located — well, actually, it was — not we’re not talking about the convent on Willow and Waukegan and we’re talking about St. Anne’s that would be right there on technique when you turn to turn west to go on Techny. Remember, they had a big auction there. So there were all these nuns living there at the time, and my dad would pick the nuns up every Friday they would call and say “Mr. Salvi, could you come and pick us up for dinner?”, and it just became a thing for years and years, and even after he passed away, we did it, and he was — generousity. You pick them up, they’d have dinner and wouldn’t charge them and they drive them home. Even in the dead of winter. He didn’t care how many sisters came in to see, how many are you so I can save you a table.

SA: And these were retired clergy these nuns were —

MV: Right

SA: For a couple years.

MV: Right.

SA: That’s — that’s really wonderful, and you also were connected with the police and fire departments too. Weren’t you? Taking care of the policemen and firemen who came?

MV: Yes, when you know — it was a I don’t know if it was a tradition. But back in the day when when they first started like in — in 1955 or something — then the police or the fire would come in and they would order a pizza or want a cup of coffee or whatever, it’d be no charge, no — no charge, and we did that also only we’re on Willow and Waukegan. But that was something that people did back then. They always did that, you know, nowadays, they don’t do that, or maybe they do and I don’t know, but I don’t recall you know, ever seen that when I’ve see policemen come in. I don’t see I don’t think when they go to 711, 711 says here you can have a coffee on the house (laughing).

SA: You knew them personally.

MV: We all — yes, we did. We knew them all by name. Yes, if you got stopped on the road for ticket and they knew your name, they’d say bye (laughing).

SA: And downtown Northbrook was smaller than —

MV: Downtown Northbrook was nothing like it is now. I mean, it’s so built up I mean, I remember when there was wellworth when there was the ANP, Sunset, Jewel we had What else. Harbingers drugstore.

SA: Melsers?

MV: Melsers. Yeah, little — well, Little Louie’s came — well, Little Louie’s was there when I was I think in grade school I had to be, and then the — the shoemaker Ben Shoemaker. We still have to go there after St. Norbert’s. He was such a nice man, they’d always give us candy. But yeah, it was small it wasn’t you know.

SA: And the traffic on Waukegan road that would go by your restaurant at the time compared to today. Must have been —

MV: There was no traffic. No traffic. I mean, my mom — my parents still are live on the house that they did, you know since they came to Northbrook in — or they got married in 1957, and now you can’t even get out of her driveway and Waukegan road.

SA: On Waukegan road.

MV: You know, it takes a long time before you can just — you know — there was no cars.

You probably turned south to go north.

MV: (Laughing) Sometimes.

SA: Sometimes like that, And when your father was passed — when he passed away, where was he laid to rest?

MV: In All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, on River Road.

SA: But his mass was —

MV: His mass was at — his mass actually was at Techny, Divine Word.

SA: And why is this unusual?

MV: Well, yeah, I’m just — I have a smile on my face because you asked me that question. My father, and Donny and Intitzberger, who did a lot for the Divine Word, we’re very two privileged men. Who got to have their funeral mass there and have all the priests sing, and the organ going because the organ doesn’t go anymore, and yes, they were very — two special men, they got to have their relationship, you know, with the church was very wonderful.

SA: And it’s a seminary. So they don’t generally.

MV: Right — right. They don’t generally date you cannot get married there, you cannot be baptized there. You — they have masses there, but that’s it, you need to get special permission to have a funeral mass, and like I said, there are only two people that have had it, and I think they even have that somewhere that’s written I think I — I read it somewhere to that — there were only two people and for the reasons.

SA: So how many years would you say you’ve been in the food service industry?

MV: I would say all my life (laughing). When we were little my parents — used  — didn’t have babysitters, so they would take us to the restaurant, put a sack of potatoes in front of us, and we’d be sitting peeling potatoes, and then you know, they used to have the old fashioned where you put the potatoes in the machine and you just — it’s — you know, it wasn’t electrical, it’s just a ham machine, and you would cut the potatoes. Nowadays, they are — everyone buys their french fries — are already done for them.

SA: So refresh.

MV: Right.

SA: And what are your — what was your happiest memory of being involved in a family restaurant?

MV: Oh, my happiest memory. I mean, there — there’s — I mean — there’s so many things being married first at the restaurant when the banquet hall was built. You know, I was the first one married there. I actually told my dad he couldn’t have any weddings until I was the first one married there, but you know, just working with the family. Being around people I mean, you know, we’ve — I’ve met so many wonderful people, and unfortunately now that the restaurants closed, I don’t see many of them. I might bump into them, but not being in that profession anymore, I don’t — I just don’t see them, but I do miss the people and I do miss the food.

SA: So you’ve been in the hospitality industry a long time. You were also– you’ve also been involved with Civic and women’s clubs. Do you want to tell me just a little bit about those?

MV: The Norbrook woman’s club is — actually it’s the St. Norbert woman’s club, not the Northbrook’s woman’s club because there is a difference. Was involved with them, was the chairman for Casino Night on the woman’s board as President, Vice President, parliamentarian just a wonderful community of women that do a lot for the school and the church. A — anyone who wants to St. Norbert’s that doesn’t know about the woman’s club and is young should be involved with it. The Northbrook Civic, I got involved with about 12 years ago from a man named Ken Chase, who used to have their banquets at the end of Northbrook days, at the Caravelle in our banquet hall, and we outgrew them, or they outgrew us I should say, they outgrew us and so they went to another venue. But that’s how I got involved with him — them — at him, just telling me about it, and I recommend any person young or old who wants to be involved with their community. It is one of the best organizations to belong to. It’s such a fulfillment to know that you’re helping your community. The big fundraiser is Northbrook days, and that money goes to any organization that comes to Northbrook Civic, that needs help and funding. They’re given it. If it’s $1,000 or $100. I mean, they’ve given to Northbrook youth baseball, GBN, to the library they’ve given — I mean, Youth Services. I mean, so it’s just a wonderful organization, and I — I mean — I just get fulfillment out of it.

SA: Well, it sounds like you’ve given a lot to Northbrook and Northbrook should be very grateful to you and your family. Before we close, is there anything else? Any other story you want to share with us or think of? Have we covered it?

MV: No, I think we’ve you know, we’ve covered a lot of it. I’m sure there’s a lot more I mean, there’s you know, live your all your life, there’s so many different memories, and so many different things that have changed in time. But no, this is a very wonderful community. I’m glad that I’ve raised my children here. We all live here except for one sister. She lives in Arizona. So as you can see, we support our community.

SA: Well, thank you very much for participating in Northbrook voices. Your memories of life in Northbrook will add a unique and personal perspective about the history of our village.