CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A River North steakhouse has seen a fair share of adversity over the past year - closing down for months due to fire, then reopening just as COVID-19 closures were announced for businesses statewide, and now a second round of looting - but owners said they are not ready to throw in the towel.
Gene & Georgetti Steakhouse in River North has been around since 1941, and it was started by now-manager Michelle Durpetti's grandfather and his partner.
Last year, the restaurant closed down due to a kitchen fire. As they were preparing to reopen March of this year, the statewide stay-at-home orders were placed and many businesses required to close; but Chicago's staple steakhouse Gene & Georgetti had blazed a path in creative ways to serve hungry Chicagoans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Then, the restaurant was struck during rioting in May, and then again late Sunday night early Monday morning, with bullet holes through a window and looting and vandalism in the restaurant's upper level.
Manager and third-generation in the ownership, Michelle Durpetti said she woke up to the news Monday morning and decided to open anyway.
"So we just figured we were going to fight as long, and as hard as we can," she said.
Durpetti adds that she knows just how lucky she was to be able to open up for business on Monday.
"My heart goes out to all these businesses like us. We have been hanging on by our finger nails. We are a mom and pop restaurant. This is the sole livelihood of my family, this is the sole livelihood of every team member here; and, you know, we had the fire in 2019, and then COVID, and now two break-ins. Every time we get our feet underneath us and we celebrate, something happens, and you are literally hanging off a cliff by your finger nails every day," she said.
Durpetti has become a symbol for resilience in Chicago, and said another symbol of that same resilience continues to survive as the restaurant's classic wood framework remains undamaged.
"Our original building is from 1874. We were built with wood. The legend goes that is is remnants from the Chicago Fire, wood from the Chicago Fire," she said.
As businesses in the area experience tremendous loss, and even closure due to COVID-19 and now looting, and with many area store employees and service workers out of a job as repairs take place, Durpetti gives great credit to her staff who have stuck with her through it all.
"The resilience of this team is probably one of the most beautiful silver linings that I have experienced in the last six months. They keep me going. They really do," Durpetti said.