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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Sabatino’s Chef Set To Open New Restaurant In Irving Park As McNamara’s Shrinks And Shifts Focus To The Bar

Plans include downsizing McNamara’s and creating a new restaurant headed by the former chef at Sabatino's.

The new owners of McNamara's in Irving Park plan to shrink the bar to make room for a new restaurant run by the former chef at Sabatino's/
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IRVING PARK — Already missing Sabatino’s? You’re in luck: the head chef of the iconic Irving Park restaurant is planning to bring the food beloved by many back to the neighborhood.

Longtime Sabatino’s chef Joel Piedra and his stepson Daniel Carrasco have been in talks with the new owners of McNamara’s, 4328 W. Irving Park Rd., about opening a restaurant in the building.

Brothers Robert and Marcus Sulejman bought the McNamara’s building about five months ago, the duo explained to the Old Irving Park Association at a Monday meeting.

Credit: Alex Hernandez/ Block Club Chicago
Marcus and Robert Sulejman, McNamara’s new owners (right to left), standing next to chef Joel Piedra and his stepson Daniel Carrasco.

“As a condition of buying the property, we took over McNamara’s,” Marcus Sulejman said. “We are familiar with the bar and restaurant business.”

The brothers are also owners of Hops and Barley, 4359 N. Milwaukee Ave., The Reservoir, 844 W. Montrose Ave., and the former Nite Cap Lounge at 5007 W. Irving Park Rd., which they’re redeveloping into Foundation Tavern & Grill.

“We’re neighborhood guys and we’re emotionally attached to the property,” Marcus Sulejman said. “And McNamara’s, as many of you know, has had better days. So we wanted to reconcept the place.”

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Since most people don’t go to McNamara’s for the food, Robert Sulejman decided to shrink the bar’s footprint and focus on serving alcohol, which would allow a new restaurant — likely run by Piedra and his son — to open in part of the sprawling space.

“Robert had the great idea of getting the chef from Sabatino’s [Joel Piedra] to come and take over the place,” Marcus Sulejman said. “We’re in negotiations with them right now. Joel has worked at Sabatino’s for 38 years and it couldn’t have been better for everything to coincide.”

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Carrasco, Piedra’s stepson, said their goal is to bring back a little bit of Sabatino’s cuisine to Irving Park in a fresh environment.

“The neighborhood has been so good to us and we wanted to bring them a new, upbeat environment with great food,” Carrasco said.

The downsizing of McNamara’s and creation of a new restaurant from its dining room won’t impact the businesses that are already part of the first floor retail of the building.

And if you did like some of the pub grub on the McNamara’s menu, don’t worry — they’re keeping some of it. It will just be prepared by Piedra if everything works out.

Robert and Marcus Sulejma stressed to neighbors that these were early stage plans and that things may change, but the thought of having a taste of Sabatino’s back in the neighborhood excited meeting attendees, who also spent time honoring the Italian restaurant for it’s decades of serving the neighborhood.

Sabatino’s co-owner Angelo Pagni gave the project his blessing.

“It’s wonderful, I’m happy for Joel and if they need any guidance we’re here and willing to help,” Pagni said.

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