IRVING PARK — Joel Piedra spent most of his career at Sabatino’s, starting at the beloved Old Irving Park restaurant as a teenager and working his way up to become the chef for 30 years until it closed in 2018.
Now, Piedra is striking out on his own. He is set to open his own restaurant, Avvio American Italian Kitchen, later this month in Irving Park alongside his stepson, Daniel Carrasco.
“It was extremely hard for Joel to move on after Sabatino’s closed because he’d been working there since he was 17,” said Lisset Rosales, Avvio’s social media manager and Carrasco’s wife. “He just wants to cook. That’s his passion, and he loves to make sure people are happy.”
Brothers Enzo and Angelo Pagni owned Sabatino’s, a fine-dining Italian restaurant, for 49 years before deciding to retire in 2018. They sold their property at 4441 W. Irving Park Road to a developer who is converting the entire block into a Northwestern Medicine facility.
Piedra and his family considered opening his restaurant next to McNamara’s at 4328 W. Irving Park Road, but those plans fell through, Rosales said.
The family eventually found a location at 4358 N. Elston Ave. The team has been building it out for several months.
The initial dining ban and then restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus complicated the opening. A firm opening date has not been set, but the family plans to open Avvio with indoor dining at 25 percent capacity within the next two weeks, Rosales said.
In the meantime, Piedra is finalizing the menu — and the Pagni brothers have given their former chef full range to use anything he wants from Sabatino’s menu.
This means Sabatino’s classics like Rich’s Special — a combination of filet mignon, marsala, lightly breaded shrimps and veal piccato — and Gnocchi de Spinaci — small tender spinach gnocchi with grilled asparagus tips in a cream sauce with prosciutto — will appear on Avvio’s new menu.
Chicken Sabatino — a boneless breast of chicken, stuffed with long grain and wild rice, prosciutto, mushrooms and olives — will be renamed Chicken Avvio, Rosales said.
“We’re hoping to have [Enzo and Angelo] at the grand opening, too, because they see Joel as part of their family,” Rosales said.
For more updates on Avvio’s opening, go to their Instagram.
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