Fabio Sorano, owner of Letizia's Fiore in Logan Square, wants to open a "pasta college."
That's why Sorano shuttered the cafe portion of his restaurant on Tuesday. They're no longer open at 7:30 a.m. and serving breakfast. Sorano and his mother will reconcept the front room into a retail space where they'll sell Letizia's signature pastas for home preparation and wines. These are the same pastas they've sold a city farmer's markets. The "natural bakery" part of their name will be dropped in favor of "pasta and vino shop."
Sorano also plans to offer pasta-making and wine classes in the new space, hence the desire to open "the very best pasta college." They've offered classes in the past and had success.
"It's just hard to do a class in the middle of the dining room because you have give up the dining room to do the class," Sorano said.
Dinner won't be affected, as Letizia's will now open at 5 p.m. Diners will have to walk through the renovated front space while workers complete the project. If all goes well, Sorano hopes they'll be fully operational by the end of February.
Sorano envisions tired commuters coming from their jobs stopping in for quick dinner solution. They'll offer artisanal pastas (like salmon-stuffed ravioli), sauces, wines and other accoutrements like pepper jam or homemade giardiniera. While he added that the "cafe did pretty good," business wise, the neighborhood wasn't conducive to a lunch crowd.
"People get up in Logan Square and go to work," Sorano explained. "There aren't offices, hospitals, shops — it's really not very dense. But at night everyone comes home."
The cafe sat about 15. Eventually, perhaps as early as the summer, Fiore will begin serving items from its wood-burning oven, including pizzas and flatbread. But right now the revamped front room will only be for classes. Customers jonesing for a baked good can visit Letizia's Natural Cafe and Bakery in Ukrainian Village (next to Sorano's Enoteca Roma) for their fix of items formerly offered at Letizia's Fiore.
The notion to open a store came to Sorano after nearby Provenance Food and Wine closed in September. The shutter cost the area a place to purchase Italian wines and cheese. Sorano said he's enlisted Provenance's former owner Tracy Kellner to curate Fiore's selection of cheeses.
Sorano stressed that his shop won't be a grocery store, and that he wouldn't be in competition with Provenance's replacement. The General, which will serve an amalgamation of Southern soul and Mexican cuisines, is set to open this spring. They'll also have a retail component, and a co-owner has a background in barbecue.
"I think ethnically we're very different cuisines," Sorano said. "I don't see them selling white wine from Northern Italy. I don't see how you pair that with barbecue."