LOGAN SQUARE — A new Italian restaurant from one of the owners of Osteria Langhe is opening in the former Quiote spot. But with Chicago in the grip of the pandemic, the owner won’t commit to an opening date quite yet.
Aldo Zaninotto, co-owner of Osteria Langhe, said construction on his new restaurant at 2456 N. California Ave. is 70 percent complete, but he’s in no rush to open it.
“We’re still on target to open. When? We don’t know. There’s no rush,” Zaninotto said.
The new restaurant is named after and inspired by Testaccio, a neighborhood in Rome known for its industrial past and regional cuisine — a neighborhood that reminded Zaninotto of Logan Square.
“Testaccio is the real Rome, and the home of real Romans. At the same time, everyone would also say that Testaccio has changed, especially the rents,” City Lab wrote of the Italian neighborhood.
Testaccio the restaurant is meant to complement Zaninotto’s existing restaurant, Osteria Langhe at 2824 W. Armitage Ave., which draws its inspiration from Italy’s Piemonte region.
Zaninotto worked at high-end restaurants like Savarin in River North and in wine sales before opening Osteria Langhe with a business partner. He has been looking to open a second restaurant for years to highlight a different region of Italy.
Testaccio is that restaurant, he said.
“After 14 years in the wine business, I realized that my Italian culture was misunderstood in this country,” Zaninotto said. “We talk about Italians and it’s always about pasta, pizza — it’s not what Italians are about. It’s by region.”
When it opens, the new restaurant will serve dishes typically found in Testaccio, including prosciutto and salumi platters, Italian dishes infused with Mediterranean and Greek flavors, and pasta and some wood-fired pizza, along with a curated wine list.
Zaninotto said part of what drew him to Testaccio is that it’s historically been home to people from many different backgrounds, which has influenced its cuisine.
In the coming weeks, Zaninotto will be working on bringing Testaccio to life. He’s planning on converting the basement bar into Soif Lounge, a cozy bar serving wine and snacks. The bar will complement an upstairs formal dining room and a food truck out back, he said.
Zaninotto said he isn’t changing the multilevel space too much. Quiote, the Mexican restaurant and mezcaleria that formerly called the space home, left behind a wood burning oven which Zaninotto plans to use for steak, fish and chicken dishes.
Quiote closed in August 2019 without explanation. It was later revealed the award-winning Mexican restaurant had been evicted after failing to pay $40,000 in rent. The restaurant had also been serving booze without a license, Patch reported.
Zaninotto’s original restaurant, Osteria Langhe, just celebrated its sixth anniversary in Logan Square. Zaninotto said he’s looking to build on that success with Testaccio and create another neighborhood staple.
But opening a new restaurant in the middle of a global pandemic isn’t easy.
Zaninotto said he’s already planning a menu with the understanding that when Testaccio opens it may be curbside pickup and delivery only for a while. People may not feel comfortable sitting in restaurants for a long time, he said.
“I feel like we’ve been mourning everyday, not knowing where we’re going or standing. It’s not just America. It’s the whole world,” Zaninotto said.
He said Testaccio is not about “showcasing” himself — it’s about creating another neighborhood joint where people can, eventually, enjoy themselves over authentic Italian food and drink.
“I do things with passion,” he said.
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