WGN Cameras, Brittney Payton check out Rip’s

7/15/2016 7:11:00 AM

WGN Cameras, Brittney Payton check out Rip’s

Brett Herrmann

NewsTribune Reporter


LADD — When Rip’s Tavern fired up the deep fryers on Thursday evening, the kitchen was packed like a sardine can with eight people crammed into the narrow space, including a camera man and a set of studio lights.


Brittney Payton, daughter of Chicago Bears all-time great Walter Payton and host of WGN’s “Chicago’s Best,” was getting a crash course in cooking chicken from the Rip’s crew. She threw on an apron, measured out salt and flour, mixed the batter and began plopping chicken into the fryer in front of the camera.


“You don’t have to actually serve anything we make,” said a producer.
But the chicken turned out well, all the same.


NewsTribune Photo/Scott Anderson Brittney Payton begins to deep fry chicken with the help of Jeff Rounds in the kitchen at Rip's Tavern in Ladd Thursday afternoon. Payton is the daghter of the Chicago Bears famous running back Walter Payton.

NewsTribune Photo/Scott Anderson
Brittney Payton begins to deep fry chicken with the help of Jeff Rounds in the kitchen at Rip’s Tavern in Ladd Thursday afternoon. Payton is the daghter of the Chicago Bears famous running back Walter Payton.

Why they’re there: The Chicago’s Best crew is doing a road trip episode, venturing out of Chicago to the surrounding areas including Pontiac, Rockford and Kenosha before trekking to the small town of Ladd.


“We found some places outside of the city that people can make as a destination dinner,” Payton said.


Chicago’s Best takes suggestions their fans on where to go, and when fans got wind of a road trip episode, Payton said requests for Rip’s came pouring in.


“Once we started researching this place, a lot of people had heard about it. They kept saying ‘You have to go,’” Payton said. “We thought it would be a perfect place for the show.”


“We’ve got great customers,” said owner Bill Rounds. “They spread the word and that’s why the camera is here now. I guess she had tons of requests.”


Starting at the bar: To get the cameras rolling, Payton interviewed Rounds about the history of Rip’s, which is celebrating 80 years of business this year.
“We weren’t going to do anything for it but then this came up,” Rounds said.


Rounds said he was impressed with Payton’s demeanor during the entire shoot, which took several hours.


“With her here it’s really personal. It’s one-on-one and that’s a nice touch,” Rounds said. “She takes her time and talks to people, which is really sweet.”


Moving to the kitchen: Heads bobbed and weaved in the dining room, trying to get a look at just what was going on with all the cameras in the kitchen.


“We’ve never really had a cooking show like this before,” Round said. “We’ve never had a camera in the back watching us cook the chicken.”


And unfortunately for Payton, the chicken takes 20 minutes to cook, so she passed the time talking to staff and snacking on the extra appetizers. “I’m loving the leftover onion rings. I can’t wait to try the rest,” she said.


On to the dining room: As the camera panned over close-ups of Rip’s menu items, the Chicago’s Best crew dug into some of the fresh-out-of-the-fryer chicken.

“It’s so different. The meat is really moist but the skin is so crispy,” Payton said. “Other fried chicken you have batter that is all the same, but this is so different.”

Payton then sat down for dinner and an interview with Gina Ramey, a longtime Rip’s employee of 56 years. But the film crew made the mistake of setting silverware on the table.


“No forks!” Ramey said.


Brett Herrmann can be reached at (815) 220-6933 or svreporter@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SpringValley.

Thanks John

Friends and family gather at Rip’s in Ladd to wish bartender a happy retirement


Long-time Rip’s employee John Kopina (far right) retired this week after 42 years of service. As a staple not only at Rip’s, but in the community, he had plenty of hands to shake and hugs to receive at his surprise retirement party.NewsTribune photo/Lauren Blough


It wasn’t goodbye forever, but it was goodbye for a while. After 42 years as a bartender with Rip’s in Ladd, John Kopina stood behind the bar one last time before his retirement on Sunday.


Kopina was in for a surprise as his family, friends, and even his former college roommate stopped into the tavern to give him a final farewell.


The crowd wished him more than a happy retirement; it also gave him moral support and well wishes as he faces ongoing health challenges.


In 2009, Kopina was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.


“When life gives you lemons, you have to do something with them,” said Sharon Kopina, John’s wife.


Kopina and his wife began making a permanent move to Arizona this week, not just to escape Midwestern climate like many others who migrate toward warmer states.


“John will be going to Banner Neuro Wellness Center in Gilbert, Arizona,” Sharon said.


Gilbert is approximately 25 miles outside of Phoenix.


“Phoenix has become the go-to place for Parkinson’s research,” Sharon said. “He will have physical therapy, cognitive therapy, social therapy and there will be support groups there, for him and for me.”


She added that her husband will be able to engage in several activities and exercises at the center to help him deal with the disease.


“Research has shown you can’t stop it, but you can slow it down, so that’s why we’re going to Gilbert,” Sharon said. “Plus, there is no winter in Arizona.”


Sharon said so far Kopina is only dealing with some minor tremors from the disease, and he hasn’t had any problems with his balance thus far.


Rip’s was full of people whose lives were touched by Kopina, and for him that meant a lot of hugs, handshakes and reminiscing.


So what will he miss the most?


“It’s the people. It’s been great between the people here, and everyone else,” Kopina said.


Bill Rounds, a co-owner of Rip’s, had nothing but nice things to say about his long-time employee.


“There are people who are just blessed, you know? And that’s him.” Rounds said. “I’m so glad that he can get some recognition because we can’t get enough for him. People love to see him.”


Besides being a staple at Rip’s, Kopina also was a teacher at Ladd Grade School for 32 years. Kopina said he worked as an educator for a total of 34 years.


“When you start talking about the history of Ladd Grade School, as far as respect, and getting things done right, John’s name comes up every time,” said Mark Mosbach, president of the Ladd Grade School board. “There’s so much respect for him.”


At the same table as Mosbach sat Gene Merkel, former Hall School Board member.


“I’ve known John for 40-some years,” Merkel said, “He taught all my kids through Ladd Grade School. There isn’t anything bad to say about him.”


It’s safe to say you probably couldn’t run into someone in Ladd who didn’t know Kopina from the school or from his time at Rip’s.


“He worked for so many years here and at the school, and then to be afflicted with this (Parkinson’s) — that’s tough. But he was here every day,” Rounds said.


Kopina’s dedication to his time at Rip’s did not go unnoticed to anyone in that tavern on Sunday. A longtime friend and co-worker at Rip’s says Kopina gave him a lot of good memories.


“I’ve worked with John for 25 years. When I got my first paycheck as a teacher, I realized I needed to do something else. So when I started here, he showed me how to get things done, and over the years we’ve become really good friends,” said John “Slick” Slingsby. “The extra income was nice, but you stay here for the people, like John. He was diagnosed a few years ago, but he never complained.”


Another co-worker at Rip’s who also recently retired, Gina Ramey, reminisced with John about their younger years.


“We had a lot of good times when we were younger, right John? It’s harder now, that we’re older,” Ramey said.


“It’s near impossible now,” Kopina said and laughed.


Kopina’s wife said they will move little by little into their new apartment in Gilbert over the following weeks.


“We’ll miss our family here, but we will be back and forth,” Sharon said.


-Lauren Blough
Staff Writer – NewsTribune

In Memoriam

This past week was a sad one for our Rip’s family. A longtime co-worker, partner, relative, and friend passed away at the age of 96 – Ralph Grivetti.


Ralph was the nephew of our founder “Rip” Gualandri. He worked at Rip’s from the age of 13 until he retired in 1980. He was a co-owner with William (Morgan) Rounds from 1976 until his retirement.


Ralph’s friendly smile and greeting was a mainstay at Rip’s. The only interruption in working at Rip’s was his service to his country in World War II from 1941 to 1945. His tour of duty included Guadalcanal, New Guinea, and the Philippines.


His wife of 66 years, Marion, passed away almost 1 year ago. I am certain that they have been re-united and Ralph has a huge smile on his face.


–Bill Rounds


It’s hard to believe almost a year has passed since you retired, Gina! Thanks for all the great memories over the years. We sure do miss you!!