Some of the mystery revolving around Chicago Chop Shop, first heard about at the beginning of the week, has been revealed. It's a three-pronged concept featuring a classic Italian butcher shop, a bar/restaurant, an event space for concerts, art shows, dinners and other one-off private events, and Ty Fujimura, according to co-owner Nick Moretti. He closed on the historic industrial space in July 2011 and broke ground three weeks ago, embarking on a 14-week construction schedule. It'll be a concept with multiple angles to add twists to the neighborhood when it opens around the beginning of July.
Moretti originally had the idea to open a salumeria, an Italian-style deli, the other parts of the concept came later. He sees the butcher shop as a modernized version of Paulina Meat Market yet more traditional than The Goddess and Grocer, bringing in co-owner Mario Minelli, whose family owned Minelli Meats in Niles for over 50 years, to oversee this portion. It'll feature an assortment of Italian meats, cheeses, wines, sandwiches, and homemade meatballs and sausages in the front of the first floor of the space. Moretti sees an opportunity with a four-story Chicago Athletic Club opening across the street, hoping for a stream of protein-hungry patrons. It will be open from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Ty Fujimura (Arami, SmallBar) is consulting on the restaurant and bar. Moretti sees the menu as playing off of the butcher shop, "serving something at night that you can buy during the day," revolving around prime-cut meat dishes similar to a grill room. Salads and small plates will also be available, as will craft beer and liquor. This section will be similar to the front bar at Lincoln Hall, a place where people can either hang out before or after a show or independently. The space will seat 50-70 people downstairs, 60 upstairs, and also house a 60-seat rooftop patio.
The event space will have a different name, dubbed The 1st Ward, and feature a mix of in-house entertainment, creative events, and bigger acts. He envisions large acts that enjoy playing smaller venues performing one-off shows, not touring bands. In that respect he doesn't see competition with Double Door and similar venues. The names Pretty Lights and LCD Soundsystem have been heard by sources.
The industrial century-old 9,300 square-foot building has a unique history. Part of it was a pornography studio run by seventies and eighties porn star Seka, which Moretti calls "the Jenna Jameson of her day." It also housed an auto garage and still has curves and cranks from the Model-T cars. He has documented history that he'll use as decoration.
He envisions it a place for the neighborhood, from Wicker Park hipsters to upscale Bucktown residents. His background in music, events, real estate, and food are all coming together in a fascinating project opening in the summer, in a place he hopes "will be a neighborhood go-to forever."