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Ballaro Bringing Italian Flair to the North Shore in One Month

Childhood friends team up to bring modern Italian to Highwood.

Courtesy of Ballaro
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

The wait's almost over for the North Shore as the owners behind Ballaro, a new 112-seat Italian restaurant, hope —pending inspections— that they'll open in three to four weeks in suburban Highwood. The restaurant, an homage to Italy's Ballaró market in Palermo, was conceived by two North Shore friends, Mark Newman and Josh Kaplan, the latter whose father is former WBBM radio food critic and news anchor Sherman Kaplan.

Expect modern Italian cuisine infused with French techniques. Handmade pastas will highlight the menu. Other items that could appear include risotto with wild gulf shrimp, preserved lemon and parsley; and gnocchi with butternut squash, brown butter, sage, baked ricotta salata and pumpkin seeds. The menu tasting even included a hefty rack of lamb over polenta. Joe Cecchini is the chef de cuisine, having most recently working in the same role at Alpana Singh's Boarding House.

Kaplan and Newman have planned the restaurant since last year. The two grew up in the same neighborhood. The average price for two courses and a glass of wine is projected to be $35.

A trip to Italy inspired Newman, who serves as partner/executive chef, and he served as Todd Stein's sous chef at Piccolo Sogno Due. He's also spent time as the corporate chef at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise's Asian concept, Big Bowl.

Kaplan, in 2008, earned Star Chef's Chicago Rising Star Sommelier award for his work at mK The Restaurant, where he served as beverage director and general manager. He's working as GM at Eleven City Diner in the South Loop.

They may eventually serve Sunday brunch, but as of now the plan's to stay open Tuesday though Sunday for dinner, staring at 5 p.m. Get ready, North Shore.