Nicole Geslani, Gene’s Rooftop Server

By Mike Fourcher | Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nicole Geslani on Gene's rooftop. Credit: Stephanie Sack

A Chicago newbie, Nicole Geslani arrived in Chicago from Florida roughly a year ago and currently can be found working on the roof of Gene’s Sausage Shop, 4750 N. Lincoln Ave., where patrons are enjoying the final relaxing rays of summer. Although her background is in sociology, Nicole has immersed herself in the local music scene, recently playing keyboards and singing backup for one band and now tooling around on drums for another. She has gone back to school to study jazz guitar and loves Lincoln Square for many reasons, including the great staff and advanced instruction at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

1. It must be so fun to work on the roof at Gene’s! What do you think makes Gene’s such a perfect fit for Lincoln Square?

Yes, it’s a lot of fun. For the most part our customers are really wonderful, so I think it’s great that the store was able to open up a space in the neighborhood where they can relax and savor the summer weather. It’s great seeing our regulars up on the roof enjoying it.

Gene’s deli counter is pretty amazing and you can walk away from it without spending a fortune. I’d say the store in general is pretty amazing. I remember walking into the Gene’s for the first time and being transported to a different world and I thought to myself that not every neighborhood can say they have an independent, family-run grocery store that can do that. Mostly, above everything else I’ve mentioned, I think Gene’s is a perfect fit for Lincoln Square because people in the neighborhood want quality products and service with a smile, which hopefully they feel they get at the store. Next time you’re in, say hello to me or any of the cashiers. We’ll say hello right back and probably start up some silly conversation about basil or bread or beer.

2. How would describe the strip of Lincoln from Wilson to Lawrence to a visitor or newbie?

I’m still rather new to the area. I’ve been here in Lincoln Square, and Chicago in general, for a little less than a year. So, I’ve often thought about how to describe this neighborhood to my family and friends in far off places who have yet to visit. I would probably say that it is populated by a beguiling blend of musicians, artists, writers and families with dogs and double-wide strollers, who frequent the lovely little shops and eateries along the strip which still maintains traces of it’s old European-influenced past.

3. What are your favorite off-the-beaten-path places or establishments in the Lincoln Square area?

I really like City Provisions. Their food is great and everything they use/sell is local and seasonal. Plus, they sell coffee from one of my favorite Chicago roasters, Dark Matter. So, I don’t have to leave the neighborhood and make the trip to Ukrainian Village just to get some coffee beans.

Hoard Antiques is also pretty cool. I have found some nice used records there for cheap.

4. What is the goofiest thing you have seen this summer in the neighborhood?

One morning, before the store was open for the day, I saw a woman walking her dog and carrying a seat cushion. She would occasionally stop at a store-front window, sit down on the cushion, and then start talking to her dog about the window display. It seems like most of the goofy things in this neighborhood involve people and their dogs…

But, I feel like I see goofy things at least once a day so it’s kind of like the whole idea, “If everything is terrible, then nothing is.”

5. Give us some recommendations for the best end-of-summer drinks.


I’m only half-kidding. This is a weird question for me, since this is the first real end-of-summer that I’ll be experiencing. In Florida, I would drink mojitos any day of the week until the December weather finally stopped the ridiculous humidity, but even in the height of summer here in Chicago, a mojito is just not the same. Also, I would drink a lot of kalamansi juice. It’s a very small, sour fruit that is indigenous to the Philippines but of course grows equally as well in Florida.

I’ll get back to you on this question. I’m off to go do some best end-of-summer drinks research right now.

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