We had dinner at Davanti Enoteca Tuesday night and were truly impressed with how much the weeks-old spot ran like a well-oiled machine, so much so that it felt like it's been there for years like many of the other classic Taylor Street standbys. Before we left, we chatted with owner Scott Harris (of Mia Francesca fame), who told us he is working on not one, but two new spots in the same area.
What's motivating this West Side expansion? "I'm tyring to bring Little Italy back to what it used to be," Harris said. "I want to do a bakery on the street in the next year, a gelato shop. I am trying to get the 'Welcome to Little Italy' signs up between Halsted and Ashland or Morgan." But in the meantime, he's working on, what else? Opening more restaurants.
First up is re-opening the old school Taylor Street joint Gennaro's, which thrived from the 1959 until last year when Mary Jo and John Gennaro retired. Harris and his wife were longtime lovers of Gennaro's and one day had an idea to revive it, but in the former Aldino's location at 626 S. Racine, and hopes to have it open by Thanksgiving.
Harris said they'll bring back the Gennaro's signature items like the pork chops with crispy potatoes and peppers; ravioli and meatballs; the garbage salad; stuffed peppers and garlic bread, chicken and veal parmesan. Even Mary Jo, who according to Harris was "bored out of her mind," will be in the kitchen. The idea is to bring back family-style dining and give the space a worn-in look with classic old family photos—even shots of Mary Joe's parents standing up in Al Capone's wedding. This is clearly old school Italian.
As for the old Gennaro's space at 1352 W. Taylor, Harris is taking over that as well with a downscale meatball concept called The Ballroom, inspired by New York's Meatball Shop, aiming to open around February. He said everything will be under $6 and will serve a variety of meatballs—pork, veggie, turkey, spicy meat—and he's planning on running a contest to find the best meatball in Chicago. The winner will get their ball on the menu and $2,500. The 40-seater will have beer and wine and homemade waffles with ice cream for dessert. Something simple and straightforward that the UIC kids will definitely dig. Not that the rest of us won't be waiting in line as well.