With J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar, River North Gets a Brand-New Old-School Spot

And Steve Chiappetti has the chops to back it up—skillwise and lambwise.

Steve Chiappetti

Photograph: Courtesy of Isabelli Media Relations

A new restaurant in River North!

Just about everything that exclamation suggests doesn’t apply here. This place doesn’t have a small-plates menu. It will take reservations. Bread will come to the table.

“Sorry. I’m old-school. Is that wrong? I only understand breaking bread at the table,” says Steve Chiappetti, the chef/partner of J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar (749 N. Clark St., no phone yet), in the former Le Lan and Al Primo Canto space.

A longtime veteran of the Chicago scene, Chiappetti is best known for the late-nineties restaurant Mango. Fifteen years later and a block north at J. Rocco, he and his business partner, Joe Frasca, plan to make scratch cooking inspired by their Calabrian families, as the name of the restaurant points to—Rocco was Frasca’s father.

Homemade recipes for several kinds of meatballs (including beef and turkey), osso buco short ribs, and pork sirloin typify the cuisine, with a $22 ceiling on entrées. Lamb from Chiappetti Meats, a family business, will be on the menu as well. “Better be,” Chiappetti says.

At the back of the brick-walled, wood-tabled, no-tablecloths space sits a custom family-style table. Behind that lies a large hydroponic greenhouse that Chiappetti hopes will turn out an annual yield of 1,000 pounds of lettuce, 600 pounds of microgreens, and 200 pounds of fresh herbs.

J. Rocco is scheduled to open in about four weeks, after which, if not for the new coat of paint, it will probably look like it’s been there forever.

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