When they were visiting Siena, Italy, the team behind River North's Siena Tavern conceived of a restaurant. As Siena Tavern progressed from idea to reality, it moved away from that vision—but apparently without detriment, to judge from the crowds there. The owners have returned to the dream kindled on that Siena trip to create Bar Siena (832 W. Randolph St., 312-492-7775). “Bar Siena will be closer to the original inspiration, in size, style, and energy,” says Fabio Viviani, the chef/partner.
The two-story, 180-seat restaurant, occupying the former Dragonfly space, will showcase the regionality of the whole country of Italy, not just the area near Siena. The menu will feature share-friendly items, heavy on the antipasti, as well as pizzas turned out of an 800-degree oven named Bella. The barlike first floor and the dining room on the second floor connect in a two-story metal tree with leaves that extend over the dining room. “A gigantic, beautiful sculpture,” says David Rekhson, a partner.
In one corner of the first floor, a café called BomboBar will serve shaved ice, coffee, gelato, and its half-namesake, the Italian doughnut holes called bomboloni. It will be "like a small laboratory," Viviani says. Customers can order through a window to Green Street in good weather.
Although the wildly successful Siena Tavern didn’t embody that original vision from the trip to Italy, maybe when Bar Siena opens in late July, they the partners will recognize that idea made real. If not, they can always open Siena Saloon or Siena Pour House.