One Off Hospitality is adding to its Wicker Park empire, taking over what is perhaps the most prominent location at one of the busiest intersections in Chicago. The group behind Avec and Publican are taking over Francesca's Forno, in a building at the corner of Damen and Milwaukee Avenues that One Off partner Terry Alexander
owns leased a space in for 30 years, which is mere doors north of their other spots Big Star, Dove's Luncheonette, and Violet Hour. They'll open a new concept there sometime next year.
Francesca's Forno, a more urban variation on Scott Harris' Mia Francesca red-sauce Italian concepts, will shutter after service on Sunday. The adjoining Glazed & Infused takeout window, which was the doughnut chain's first location, will stay open through mid-December. They hope to find another location somewhere else in the neighborhood.
Forno has been in limbo for many months. During that time the menu has been pared down, communal tables added, new chefs hired, and rumors of reconcepting flew. One Off says they've been negotiating with Harris over the space and finally reached an agreement.
For Terry Alexander, a longtime Wicker Park restaurant and bar owner who opened the beloved neighborhood spot Soul Kitchen in 1995, the Forno space represents a continued homecoming. Will he continue to try to return the gentrified neighborhood to its roots, a la Dove's Luncheonette? Stay tuned.