6 Questions for chef Tony Priolo, 37
Priolo, 37, is leaving Coco Pazzo on March 29th to open Piccolo Sogno (“little dream”), a casual, 80-seat Italian restaurant in the former Thyme/Timo space (464 N. Halsted St.)
D: You’ve been at Coco Pazzo a long time. Why the change?
TP: It’s been 11 years. I love this place but it’s time for me to give it a try on my own. I owe it to them to make sure this place is still going to be the same, so I’m training Chris [Macchia] from [Coco Pazzo] Café. He’s one of my best friends.
D: Where are you from originally?
TP: Grew up on Northwest Side by Harlem Avenue. Went to CHIC [Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago], then worked in Italy for a short while, outside of Florence.
D: What’s your restaurant going to be like?
TP: It’s going to be simple Italian food for the neighborhood. Definitely going to use local markets, local farmers that I have. Fresh handmade pastas. From bread to ice cream, everything will be in-house, like in Italy. Like at Coco Pazzo. There’s a wood grill, so we will be using that, too—for meats and fish.
D: And pizza?
TP: Definitely. John Bubala (former owner of Timo) left me a wood-burning pizza oven. He put in an oven but I don’t know if he ever used it. I’d like to go for the D.O.C. classification where they come and grade you.
D: Are you gutting Timo?
TP: We [Priolo’s partner is Ciro Longobardo, an Italian wine specialist in Los Angeles] are going to change some of the décor, but trying to not do too much. Would like to open the patio more, for sure. Open a door from the dining room to make it more of a European feel.
D: What’s your plan for an opening date?
TP: That depends on the city. Maybe by June. July, I hope. May would be great.
“Anyone who eats three meals a day should understand why cookbooks outsell sex books three to one.” –L. M. Boyd (1927-2007), American newspaper columnist
John’s Other Place
John and Lynn Manilow, owners of Lincoln Park’s popular neighborhood spot John’s Place (1200 W. Webster Ave.; 773-525-6670), plan to replicate the magic with John’s Place Roscoe Village this summer at 2132 West Roscoe Street (the old La Mora space). “John had been coveting the spot for about five years,” says Lynn Manilow. “We live about a stone’s throw from there, and he would call the owner about every six months and ask: Think you’re selling it? Think you’re selling it?” The menu will feature some of the home-style cuisine that the original John’s had when it opened 14 years ago, including Manilow’s hallowed chicken pot pie.
Chaise Lounge (1840 W. North Ave.; 773-342-1840) has replaced its chef, Isaac Holzwarth, with Cary Taylor, 28, a veteran of, Avenues, Blackbird, and Ambria. “[Chaise] sounded like a pretty good place to try my own thing,” says Taylor, a Georgia native, who won the job with dishes such as a rack of lamb with toasted barley and apricot compote with lavender game jus, and a “deconstructed” chicken noodle soup. “It was sort of a different take on it,” he said. “Toasted Israeli couscous for the noodles, took some parsnips and carrots, pickled some onions. Sliced the onions real thin, like a fine, fine julienne so they almost looked like tiny noodles.” Taylor’s menu kicks in on April 1st.
This Time, It’s Personal
Gaetano Di Benedetto, the celebrated chef/owner of La Piazza (410 Circle Ave.; Forest Park), closed his west suburban café on February 15th with plans to reopen as Gaetano’s (7636 W. Madison St.), a regional Italian restaurant, a few blocks west later this month. “Gaetano has been unhappy since he expanded the old space,” says Elena Elizondo, a manager. “The new place will be smaller. Gaetano wants it to be more about personal attention.”
It’s Not Easy Being Green
Drew Baker, owner of the all-organic, counter-service Drew’s Eatery (2207 W. Montrose Ave.; 773-463-7397), opening March 14th in Lincoln Square, is giving more than lip service to the green concept. He’s getting ice cream from Traderspoint Creamery in Indianapolis and hot dogs and sausages from various vendors including Applegate Farms in New Jersey; his tilework comes from recycled glass; his spoons and cups are biodegradable. “[Going green] is just really thinking about everything before you do it and making a conscious choice about it,” says Baker, who was on the corporate side of Corner Bakery for 12 years. Other perks in his 19-seat spot: an espresso bar; scones, brownies, and cookies baked on-site; and plenty of homemade soups.
A Diplomat and a Comedian
Raffaele Fine Italian Dining (7348 W. Lawrence Ave., Harwood Heights; 708-867-4100), a pleasant 48-seat spot that makes its sauces daily, opened in late January with the goal of pleasing the world. “We do pretty much everything,” says the chef/owner, Raffaele Contacessi, a Bari native who has cooked at the James Beard House eight times. “Northern. Southern. Regional. I don’t want to offend anybody. I will do whatever the customer wants. The only thing that I require is minimum of a two-week reservation if they request elephant ears on rye.”
1. Watch Mark Bittman work wonders on an octopus and allay any potential squeamishness you might have. (“After all, they’re more intelligent than dogs. But, of course, so are pigs and chickens and maybe even grapes.”)
2. Playboy.com’s new list of the ten best burgers in America, compiled and written by your loyal Dish scribe Ruby, includes the awe-inspiring Kuma burger at Kuma’s Corner (2900 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-604-8769).
3. Wonder what the cucumber did to deserve this fate.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Mercat a la Planxa (Blackstone Hotel, 638 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-765-0524), Jose Garces’s Spanish explosion in the South Loop, swings open on March 8th. . . . Fixture (2706 N. Ashland Ave.), a two-year-old neighborhood gastropub, has been sold to David Agazzi (formerly of Yak-Zie’s), who plans to turn it into a bar. . . . Congratulations to Michael Taylor of the Italian Village (71 W. Monroe St.; 312-332-7005), who has earned his “certified sommelier” status with the Master’s Sommelier judges. . . . Rick Bayless’s second local outpost of Frontera Fresco has opened in the Macy’s at Skokie’s Westfield Old Orchard. . . . Frankie’s Scaloppine (900 N. Michigan Ave., 5th floor; 312-266-2500), Lettuce Entertain You’s recasting of Tucci Benucch, has opened.