HUMBOLDT PARK — About a year after beloved restaurant Café Marie-Jeanne closed, a restaurant from a burgeoning hospitality group is opening in the cafe’s vintage storefront, the first step in the group’s plan to bring the once-vibrant Humboldt Park corner back to life.
Orbit Group has transformed the Café Marie-Jeanne spot at 1001 N. California Ave. into Segnatore, a restaurant serving Italian-meets-Midwestern fare. With only city approvals left to secure, the group aims to open the eatery and bar next month. A firm opening date has not been set yet. Check the restaurant’s website and Instagram for the announcement.
Named after healers and folk witches of ancient Italian folklore, Segnatore will serve house-made pasta, Tuscan roast chicken and other Italian dishes with a Midwestern twist.
Orbit Group’s chef and partner, Matt Troost, formerly of Three Aces and Charlatan, is bringing in ingredients from local farms for dishes like girasole ravioli with sage brown butter, honey nut squash filling, toasted hazelnuts and sultanas and rosemary and fennel pollen rubbed pork loin and belly with plum mostarda and bitter greens.
Patrons can expect Italian cocktails, local spirits and spritzes, as well as Metric Coffee and Spirit Tea. Segnatore’s wine selection will focus on women winemakers from Italy, the group said. The restaurant will only serve one locally brewed beer: “Il Serpente,” a custom-made Italian pilsner from Brewer’s Kitchen out of Pilot Project Brewing.
Orbit Group’s beverage director, Kristina Magro, formerly of Lone Wolf and Prairie School, said the drinks are meant to complement Troost’s food, which is infused with “familiar flavors.”
“I just really wanted a place that you could come and spend any occasion at, it [doesn’t] have to be a special occasion — you can just come and celebrate those small victories, the wins and the losses — a place that feels like a third place,” Magro said.
Segnatore has the same layout as its predecessor Café Marie-Jeanne, but a whole new look.
Orbit Group teamed up with Siren Betty Design — the women-run design firm behind popular spots like Giant, The Hi-Lo and Tortello — to give the restaurant a moody and feminine vibe with vintage Italian artwork, 19th century shelving and dried flowers from Courtney Howell of Biota Co-op.
With the design, the hospitality group hopes to evoke the “long hidden history” of segnatori, the restaurant’s namesake. In Italian folklore, segnatori use “herbal remedies, ritual processes and spiritual practices” to heal people and protect their communities, the group has said.
The opening of Segnatore comes about a year after Café Marie-Jeanne’s owners — Mike Simmons and Valerie Szafranski — closed the European-style cafe because of the pandemic.
“We went from a bustling, 400-person brunch every weekend all day situation to a pretty limited takeout menu,” Simmons said at the time. “We were paying rent for this big space that we can’t fill like we used to fill.”
Café Marie-Jeanne’s closure was devastating for neighbors and foodies alike. In just five years, the restaurant had built up a strong following for its Paris-meets-Montreal vibes, fresh-baked pastries, gourmet sandwiches and dinner specials.
When the cafe closed, it was the third neighborhood favorite to shutter at California and Augusta avenues in a matter of months.
Beloved 1930s tavern The California Clipper and adjoining coffee shop C.C. Ferns closed in May 2020.
In addition to opening Segnatore, Orbit Group is reviving The California Clipper and C.C. Ferns. The plan is to bring back all of the things people loved about the Clipper – its red lights, cozy booths and live music — and fold the coffee shop into the bar. Crews are renovating the space. An opening date has not been set yet.
“We want to see this corner of the city come back to life,” Jessica Garza, the group’s marketing director, said in July. “The hospitality industry took a huge hit from COVID. We want to help bring [it] back to life over here, and do what we can for it.”
The group also runs the River North bar Good Measure at 226 W. Chicago Ave.
For updates on Segnatore, visit the restaurant’s Instagram.
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