Another Bucktown/Wicker Park restaurant has closed for reconcepting, highlighting a trend that continues to gain momentum. Theo Gilbert's Ripasso quietly shuttered and has already softly reopened as Starland, a more casual concept designed to be reminiscent of an old-school beach house or your grandfather's basement lounge.
"This neighborhood is in fluctuation," Gilbert says. "It's hard to run a business consistently when we'll go from 140 reservations one Friday to 15 the next Friday."
While Ripasso was an Italian concept, the Starland menu is made up of nostalgic comfort foods in the form of small plates, half-size sandwiches, sides and desserts. Dishes include spicy & sweet pork ribs, "grammy's chicken and dumplings," baked polenta with meatballs, and a meatloaf sandwich.
A selection of "adult coolers" are available behind the bar, easy-drinking colorful concoctions that Gilbert is reducing in size because they're too easy to drink. He highlights a grapefruit cooler made with malort.
Gilbert has replaced Ripasso's rustic Italian look with a throwback decor highlighted by shelves filled with nostalgic trinkets (such as an Archie Bunker mug) and board games, which will be used during a Wednesday game night. Nighttime sailing scenes are now stenciled above the bar.
Ripasso is not completely dead, however. Gilbert says he's looking at spaces in the West Loop in hopes of opening a similar concept within 6-18 months. Ripasso opened in 2011 and achieved a dedicated customer base but struggled to gain new customers, briefly switching to an Irish concept during the popup The Red-Headed Step Child. Even staging chef battles with Schwa chef Michael Carlson couldn't keep Ripasso afloat.
Gilbert hopes the Italian concept will work better in the West Loop, and his new casual concept, Starland, will work in a neighborhood that's constantly changing.
· All Ripasso Coverage [-ECHI-]
· Starland [Facebook]
[Photo: Eater Chicago]