DISH FLASH: Bistro 110 to Close, Emerge as Italian Bar

Tony Mantuano tells Dish all about plans to close the 25-year-old Bistro 110 on August 4, and, by early fall, turn it into a bar and pizzeria.

The bombshell about the August 4 closure of Bistro 110 (110 E. Pearson St.; 312-266-3110) is more than mitigated by news of its replacement: a modern Italian bar and pizzeria, courtesy of Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Café Spiaggia, and Terzo Piano). Promises of good espresso, homemade pastries, gelato to go, a mozzarella bar, and a roster of Abruzzo-inspired small plates sound a whole lot better than the autopilot tourist fare into which Bistro 110 had devolved.

Dish: It’s hard to believe that Bistro 110 goes back 25 years.

Tony Mantuano: I wrote the original menu for Bistro 110. Larry [Levy] said go eat in Paris for a couple of weeks and come back with some ideas. And I did. I hired the first chef.

D: Is business at Bistro 110 still good?

TM: Business is really good there.

D: So what prompted the decision to completely change it up?

TM: I think we can build on what they have accomplished there. I guess the analogy is Brasserie Jo and Paris Club. It was a good restaurant. Maybe Paris Club, like this new Italian bar, appeals to more people. I think this concept has wider appeal. This concept. I hate that word concept. It’s really something coming from my heart. I have wanted to do this concept for along time.

D: Can you describe it?

TM: The idea is that this is an Italian bar more than a pizzeria. The pizzeria is one of the elements. This is about an Italian bar. It can be used for all meal periods.

There will be a vast gelato display when you first walk in. All house made. You can walk two steps in the front door and get gelati to go, in a cone or a cup, and walk to the beach. So sort of a retail element, too.  The fact that the gelati is all made here. All on display. Another use for the space, other than a sit-down restaurant.

And there will be a mozzarella bar.

D: What does that mean?

TM: It means that there will be several kinds of mozzarella on display. Mozzarella bobbing in water, being held in water. Mozzarella garnished with various ingredients. Slices of prosciutto, a handful of arugula, vine-ripened tomatoes in season. But you will be able to see the mozzarella. You will be able to see your mozzarella sampler plate of maybe three different kinds of mozzarella right there on display.

D: Any other clever stations like that?

TM: A pizza bar so you can sit down and watch your pizza being made in the wood-burning oven. The biggest thing is that we needed to put in a real wood-burning oven for pizza. The oven that’s been there for 25 years is fantastic [but not for pizza].

D: What else can I expect be eating there?

TM: A lot of small plates. There will be a lot of large salads. It will be a place where you can go and get entrée salads. The biggest expense will probably be our vegetables and produce.

D: Tell me about some small plates.

TM: A lot of little things, called rosticcini. Basically these are little charcoal-grilled skewers. Different kinds of protein. This is really a specialty of the region of Abruzzo. Pieces of lamb marinated with herbs and things and charcoal grilled.

I [also] think it will be great for breakfast. You can get a house-baked cornetto, the Italian equivalent of a croissant. We will be baking our own pastries. You can walk up and get a great espresso in the morning. I go to Italy all the time. That’s how Italians have breakfast. Standing up.

D: Will the price go up if you sit down? Like what happened to me in Venice.

TM: No. We will leave that unimported.

D: Will there be a chef de cuisine?

TM: Yes. Spiaggia has Sarah Grueneberg as executive chef, for both Spiaggia and Café Spiaggia. Terzo has Meg Colleran Sahs.

D: You like women.

TM: I can’t get enough of them.

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3 years ago
Posted by jday2005

Sorry to rain on your parade, but the mozzarella bar idea isn't that clever...its in every other city on this planet worth its salt, there are even chains. But that's kind of the way of things work in Chicago...5 years late.

3 years ago
Posted by Jimmyqberto

Yea, I am NOT surprised at all. Bistro 110 has turned into a joke. They have literally the most uneducated servers in the history of the world. You would think they would hire people that had the least bit of familiarity with French food and drink, but the owner obviously doesn't care. I'm sure this place will just turn into a tourist crap-hole once it reopens as an Italian place.

3 years ago
Posted by marothisu

I am kind of excited for this if it pans out well. As someone said, it could turn into a tourist crap-hole which is not out of the question since it's right near Michigan Ave and Water Tower Place, then again it might not. I Guess it really depends on how expensive it is though. Most tourists don't spend more than $12-$15 for dinner, which is why Bistro 110 was never an annoying tourist crap-hole.

I like Bistro 110, although I think it would be better in another place maybe a little west or something.

"They have literally the most uneducated servers in the history of the world" That is true of at least one experience I had. My server right away tried to tell me that me and my girlfriend at the time looked like "hipsters" even though we looked like everyone else in the restaurant. Then he proceeded to question a few things, as if we lived in Wicker Park even though I live a block from Bistro 110. What an idiot. Almost didn't tip him because of this. Who does that?

Anyway, it will be interesting with this new Italian place. I hope it's filled with mostly locals, and makes that immediate area a little bit more vibrant at night. Bistro 110 didn't exactly do that, but it wasn't designed to do so.

3 years ago
Posted by jonnynonos

Are the people who read this blog morons? Crap hole? Chicago being a culinary backwater? Do you even know who chef Tony Mantuano is? Why would you be interested in reading a blog about food if you are totally ignorant about food? Mantuao is one of America's great chefs and Chicago is probably the best food city in the entire country.

But don't let bald ignorance stop you from voicing your opinion. Thank goodness for anonymity, eh?

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