La Scarola owes much of its success and personality to its ebullient chef, who has helmed the kitchen since opening the restaurant with business partner Joey Mondelli in 1997. Calling La Scarola “my house,” Vasquez, who hails from Oaxaca, Mexico and moved to Chicago in 1991 after spending some time in New York, treats his guests like family, sometimes picking up the check for a longtime regular, but more often sharing shots of tequila with his customers. The tradition, which started as a joke from someone wishing Vasquez a happy birthday when it wasn’t his birthday, has grown to the point that he receives upwards of 200 bottles of tequila at the restaurant each year. (He jokes that it still “is not enough.”) Vasquez’s charisma endears him to people—celebrities, music moguls, regular guests—who do him favors, such as getting him tickets to the World Series, inviting him to the Grammys, or even putting him up in their homes. And once you’re in with Vasquez, you start to get special favors, too. Just don’t let it go to your head—you’ve still got a shot of tequila to take. 721 W. Grand Ave., 312-243-1740

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