AVONDALE — The owners of Pisolino recently shut down the neighborhood restaurant and replaced it with an Italian market with grocery items, to-go meals and a deli counter.
They hope the change will help their business get through the coronavirus pandemic.
“We knew we wouldn’t be able to make it. Rather than having to close our doors, we wanted to evolve,” said co-owner Rachel De Marte.
Pisolino at 2755 W. Belmont Ave., along with every other restaurant in Chicago, shut down to dine-in customers in mid-March when the statewide stay at home order started.
The restaurant continued to offer pickup and delivery, but neither service was generating enough money to save the business, said De Marte, who opened the restaurant with her ex-husband, James De Marte, in 2016.
“There’s no way we could survive on pickup and delivery only. Our business probably decreased by 70 percent,” Rachel De Marte said.
So, last week, the co-owners officially transformed the restaurant into an Italian market.
The dining room is now filled with shelving units stocked with grocery items like fresh mozzarella and other pasta and pizza ingredients, as well as farm produce, small-batch wines and unique products like Marinello Tartufi’s truffle honey and vinaigrette.
In addition to shopping for grocery items, patrons can order off the full restaurant menu and take meals to go. Pasta, pizza and desserts like tiramisu are all available for carryout. As part of the overhaul, the owners also started serving Italian subs for lunch from a deli counter.
“The only thing we took away is that you can’t eat there anymore,” Rachel De Marte said.
Rachel De Marte said she was able to redesign the space easily thanks to her background in event planning. She’s owned and operated her own event planning company for the last decade. She met James De Marte, an Italian chef, while working in catering.
Being forced to shut down the restaurant was “disappointing,” Rachel De Marte said. But she said she’s more excited about the market than the restaurant.
Rachel De Marte said the market will allow Pisolino’s owners to share products and ingredients they love, which isn’t always possible in a restaurant setting.
“It’s a lot of things I’m passionate mashed up into one,” she said.
So far, the new concept has only drawn positive feedback from neighbors, Rachel De Marte said.
“It is our new way forward. It’s certainly better than closing our doors. That gives us hope,” she said.
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