A Chicago original, Gerald Alan Ranalli, restaurateur and founder of Ranalli's on Lincoln and numerous other establishments, died at the age of 83 after a long battle with cancer on April 15, 2021. Forty years before breweries gained popularity, Ranalli offered over 100 beers from around the globe. Libations aside, Ranalli's was known for pizza and the "Panzerotti" a deep fried calzone-inspired specialty which translates to "belly buster" in Italian. Roger Ebert was so enamored of the dish he wrote a glowing review in his column. Today many Chicago eateries feature outdoor patios, but Jerry was granted the first outdoor permit for alfresco dining in the city. Summer months at Ranalli's on Lincoln saw a lively café scene of families, softball teams, and revelers enjoying a favorite neighborhood spot. Jerry Ranalli's consummate front-of-the -house personality and innovative spirit didn't stop there. Many people credit him for being the originator of the sports bar concept. A few years after Ranalli's success, he opened The Ultimate Sports Bar and Grill. People waited in line outside for a chance to dance in the boxing ring, shoot hoops, watch a favorite local team on tv, and of course enjoy some great food and drink. Jerry also delighted in giving back to the community by hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for the elderly and people down on their luck. Donning Dickensian garb to these holiday feasts, he shared joy and laughter with his guests. He was a gifted cook and storyteller, and those attributes created many memorable meals for friends, family, and patrons of his restaurants. He is lovingly remembered and survived by his children Gerald Alan Rannali, Jr (Joan Knox), Suzanne Evans (Jonathan), grandchildren Henry, Grace and Nina, and nephews Mark and Matthew Ranalli. A memorial is being planned for June. Arrangements by Cremation Society of Illinois, 773-281-5058 or www.cremation-society.com
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Published by Chicago Tribune on Apr. 18, 2021.