If the gruesome cases on "Criminal Minds" don't make him lose his appetite, Joe Mantegna can visit his own restaurant to satisfy it.
The star of CBS' long-running Wednesday drama pays constant homage to his hometown with Taste Chicago, which he and wife Arlene own and operate in Burbank, Calif. "I have a pretty good day job," he muses. "I don't need this restaurant to pay our bills, so we don't skimp on anything, and our goal is to just make it the best Chicago-type restaurant."
Other transplants from Illinois appreciate the effort, since Mantegna often sees fellow Chicagoans at the site. "They say, 'Wow, this is really like being back home in Chicago.' It's a little more expensive than if you're trying to do mass production and just throw anything out there; we serve real Chicago hot dogs and real Italian beef, and I feel good about it. It does well enough that it pays for itself."
More than that, in fact: Mantegna reports that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim like Taste Chicago's deep-dish pizza so much, it was added to the menu at the baseball team's stadium last year.
"This coming season, we're hoping to maybe expand on that, so it's all good. You go (to Taste Chicago) on a Friday between 12 and 2, and there's this whole contingent of Chicago actors who hang out there. And we've had everyone there from Jay Leno to the guys from 'American Chopper.' "
Whenever they visit Chicago, which is often, the Mantegnas also make it a fact-finding mission of sorts for their eatery. "We're always making sure that we feel it's up to par with the best of Chicago restaurants," he says, "and we feel it is. The best review is when someone comes in and says, 'I just came from Chicago, and this is better than the place I normally go to.' That's when I feel like we're doing the right thing."
•What are you currently reading?
"I really like Anthony Bourdain, as a chef and a writer, and I look forward to reading about his life in the food world. Even being in it at the small level we are, it's really interesting."
•What did you have for dinner last night?
"My wife made a creamed dill chicken dish that she whipped together. She'll do that a lot; she'll look in the icebox and see what's there and create something."
•What is your next project?
"I'm knee-deep in 'Criminal Minds.' Our [ratings] numbers have been better than ever, and I have every reason to believe we'll be renewed."
•When was the last vacation you took - where and why?
"My wife laughs about that. She says, 'We never go on vacation, we go on location.' I've been lucky that in my line of work, we go to some pretty exotic places. When we take a vacation, we go more local; we like Laguna Beach a lot."
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