Long after the mounds of garbage have been hauled away, the last booth is moved away from Grant Park and Taste of Chicago 2005 is officially over, one Riverside business can boast it was there when it all started 25 years ago. Aunt Diana’s Old Fashioned Fudge is one of three businesses who were there in 1980 when 35 restaurants started what was to become one of the biggest events for the city of Chicago.
Jerry Gits, owner of Aunt Diana’s, was there when the idea to showcase Chicago restaurants?”then known as Chicago Fest and held at Navy Pier?”first came about. As the fest evolved and grew to huge proportions with the additions of music and more vendors, it became necessary to move to a larger venue. The site chosen was Grant Park.
Aunt Diana’s contribution to good taste at the Taste has come in many forms, with their famous fudge being a mainstay. Over the years they have tested a variety of items to tempt the palate, including fudge and chocolate sundaes, snappers, molded chocolate peanut butter-filled dinosaurs, bear claws and ice cream bars known as Patty Bars. They have settled on chocolate-dipped bananas in two sizes, two kinds of fudge and a sampler plate.
Patty Miglore, the store manager, remembers the year they sold 48,000 snappers. Each of the tasty morsels was made at the Riverside store and individually wrapped for sale. Last year alone it is estimated that at the Aunt Diana’s booth at the Taste, people devoured two tons of fudge, 10,000 bananas and 2,400 pounds of strawberries. All the fudge is made fresh daily at the Riverside store, the bananas are flash frozen and the strawberries are hand-dipped.
The Aunt Diana’s booth is run by Gits and his wife, Kathy. They employ a staff to man the booth during the 10 to 11 days of Taste of Chicago. And they have been fortunate to have a good location. This year, they were on Jackson near Lake Shore Drive and close to the Fox bandstand
Born and raised in Riverside, the story of Aunt Diana’s Fudge had its beginnings in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago, where Gits had a business. Eventually Gits took to selling fudge made from the same recipe used at a store in the Wisconsin Dells. Gits had purchased the recipe from a man there.
The result was that Gits built a mini-chain of fudge stores, including outlets in Forest Park, Northbrook, Water Tower Place and Riverside. The Riverside store was always the prime manufacturer of product for the other locations under the direction of Patty Miglore and her staff, which includes longtime employee Pat Agne. Miglore came into the business after graduating from high school. Following an interview with Gits, she was hired and has been there ever since.
Gits began his candy making career with fudge, but over the years he and his staff have increased their product line to include a variety of items. Seasonal, year-round, and gift assortments are all available for purchase or shipping.
The complete figures for Aunt Diana’s from the Taste of Chicago 2005 have not been totaled as of this edition of the Landmark, but we will report them at a later date. So while Taste of Chicago is now only a memory, all who have enjoyed the goodies from Booth 14 will not have to wait for next year. They only need to go to Aunt Diana’s store on Burlington Street for a Taste of Riverside. By the way, the other two original businesses to the Taste of Chicago are Eli’s of cheesecake fame and Guey Lon.