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After Pandemic Closed Beloved South Loop Eatery, Cafe Bionda Is Back With A New Menu And Look

Now under guidance of native Neapolitan Cosimo Riccardi, Cafe Bionda is bringing back old favorites and new dishes for family-style dining.

Cafe Bionda in South Loops reopened In September after the pandemic forced the restaurant to close in 2020.
Cafe Bionda/Provided
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SOUTH LOOP — A South Loop favorite is back under new management.

Beloved Italian eatery Bionda Cafe, 1924 S State St., closed in 2020 as many restaurants struggled during the beginning of the pandemic. It reopened in September under the 8Hospitality Company umbrella with a new look and some of the classic dishes that kept diners coming back during its original run, along with new items.

“With any new restaurant you’re always going to be a little skeptical. ‘Is this going to be one of those restaurants that open with a bang? Is it going to be a slow build?'” said Joe Proppe, 8Hospitality’s director of sales and marketing. “But two weeks before we opened we realized pretty quickly that it was going to be a hit.”

The restaurant group tapped chef Cosimo Riccardi — known for leading tony restaurants worldwide including L’Ulivo at the Hotel Palladio in Venice, Italy — to create a menu that would honor Cafe Bionda’s past while keeping things current and fresh.

The native Neapolitan introduced new items like octopus carpaccio (octopus terrine, arugula salad, shaved celery, and lemon dressing; $18) and homemade short rib ravioli (stuffed with braised short rib and topped with a red wine demi glace; $23).

Old favorites like Nana’s Gravy (slow braised pot roast, San Marzano tomatoes, root vegetables and rigatoni; $22) and spaghetti with meatballs or sausage ($20) are back, along with the tiramisu ($9). The team received an assist from an old recipe book from Cafe Bionda’s former chef, who Proppe said was extremely helpful with getting them what they needed throughout the process.

The team also wanted to keep things affordable with prices close to the original menu, noting the dearth of dining options along the State Street corridor, Proppe said. While the new owners made sure to keep the intimate, family-friendly vibe, the dining room does look a bit different than it did before the closure, Proppe said.

“We didn’t want to change the overall theme but it needed an update, There’s new painting, and we redid the bathrooms and bought a new gorgeous bar top because it’s such a focal point of the space. It’s a huge island bar right at the center,” Proppe said.

Semi-private and private spaces are getting a refresh as well, allowing for easier conversion for events. The restaurant will soon be adding weekend brunch service as well as patio seating next summer, Proppe said.

Cafe Bionda is open 4 p.m.-12 a.m. every day.

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