At a rare Tuesday morning press conference, Billy Lawless (The Gage, Acanto) and Ryan O'Donnell (Gemini Bistro) unveiled their Lakeview plans that first surfaced in 2015. They're opening a southern Italian restaurant this summer called Coda Di Volpe over at 3335 N. Southport Ave. There's also a third partner, chef Chris Thompson, who they hired without a tasting. Thompson is the former executive chef over at San Francisco's famed A16 and more recently worked at The Nickel in Denver.
O'Donnell wants the restaurant to be a "neighborhood go-to," with a coziness that reminds diners of Gemini. They'll bring that to Southport along with the downtown hospitality from Lawless, breaking up the monotony of Lakeview's sport bars. They want to open within two months, with 100 seats inside the dining area plus a U-shaped bar with 25 seats. There's also sidewalk seating that will wrap around the intersection of Southport and Henderson and a five-seat pizza counter. They've enlisted 555 International for the design: "Think Italy in the 1950s or 60s," O'Donnell said.
As far as chef Thompson goes, he's a Long Beach, Calif. native, and left A16 in 2014. After spending time in California and elsewhere ("I don't know if I'm a New York guy"), Thompson moved to Chicago, drawn by local chefs. "In California they have produce. In Chicago, chefs know techniques," he says.
No matter where Thompson's career took him, he said he always returned to southern Italian food. Handmade pastas and Neapolitan pizzas will star on his menu. He has traveled frequently to Naples, earning his VPN certification, and he said his pizzas and food will be authentic. They're still debating if they'll offer carry out for pizzas. Thompson wants to adhere to VPN rules which are in place to ensure consistent quality, but they'll listen to the neighborhood's desires. They'll also cure meats onsite, and also serve seafood.
Lawless called the name "cheeky," as Coda Di Volpe means "tail of the fox." It's also the name of a white wine grape. Lawless will once more turn over the drink program to Jon McDaniel and Clint Rogers, saying there's a wine list that will include 85 percent southern Italian wines and varietals.
Look for a late June or early July opening. They'll initially offer dinner service seven days a week and later add lunch and Sunday brunch.