There’s a new Italian tenant inside the Pork Shoppe space in Avondale. Pisolino, a fast-casual 40-seat Italian cafe should open by October at 2755 W. Belmont Ave. The owners say patrons shouldn’t expect white tablecloths and marked-up bottles of wines like at some River North establishments.
"This is very much a neighborhood Italian restaurant that we want to be cozy and stylish," said co-owner Rachel De Marte.
De Marte, an event planner who does food-focused weddings, will run the restaurant with her husband. Chef James De Marte worked at restaurants including Grappa, Les Nomades and Zealous. He also spent 10 years in Italy where he cooked and learned about wines. He’ll oversee Pisolino’s small and 100-percent Italian wine list. They won’t sell wines by the glass, opting to sell them by the bottle and the quartino, which the De Martes said provide better value. They’ll also serve classic Italian cocktails, such as Negronis.
James De Marte grew up in the Chicago area, and his grandmother ran Armand’s in Elmwood Park, where he worked as a 10-year-old through his teenage years. His grandmother grew up in Bari, Italy, and he’s taken her recipe for Pugliese-style pizza and made it his own. His pizzas are "more substantial" and take longer in the oven compared to Neapolitan crusts, he said. They’ll have around 12 pizzas on the menu, with the signature topped with fennel sausage, Cerignola olives, burrata, black truffles, mozzarella and tomato.
Pizza isn't the only featured item at this fast-casual counter service spot, however. They’ll also serve pastas that aren’t traditionally served at Chicago’s Italian restaurants, including Amatriciana, which features a red, porky sauce. De Marte also promises a couple Chicago touches, mentioning a pepper and egg sandwich.
Pisolino will serve breakfast at 7 a.m. with Stumpdown coffee, grab and go sandwiches, plus sweet and savory pastries. Panini No. 2 features chorizo-style Calabrian sausage mixed with ricotta, basil on brioche. There’s also sweet bombolini (donuts filled with creme or hazelnut spread).
Don’t expect brunch, at least not right away. Rachel De Marte isn’t a fan of the hype surrounding the meal. If she ever consented, Pisolino wouldn’t serve traditional pancakes, eggs and bacon.
"We want to be a little different," Rachel De Marte said.