Nico Osteria has found a successor to Erling Wu-Bower, who’s leaving the Gold Coast in about a month to start an upcoming River North restaurant. Bill Montagne will take over as chef de cuisine at One Off Hospitality’s swanky Italian seafood restaurant as Montagne and chef Jennifer Kim prepare to close Snaggletooth this summer. Montagne may bring a bit of Snaggletooth to Nico, as he told the Tribune that he wants diners to know that the Gold Coast doesn’t have to be an expensive night out.
Nico Osteria, inside the Thompson Hotel, is one of One Off Hospitality Group’s jewels. Much of the credit goes to Wu-Bower, who’s leaving to open a restaurant with friend and fellow chef Cosmo Goss (The Publican). While the two chefs are forming a new company, Underscore Hospitality with the help of Joshua Tilden One Off’s strategic operations director. They’ll have some help from their old bosses. One Off’s Paul Kahan, Donnie Madia, and Terry Alexander are partnering on the project. The new restaurant will fall under both Underscore’s and One Off’s jurisdiction, according to a spokeswoman.
Wu-Bower’s pending departure leaves a void — one that Montagne is ready to fill. While Snaggletooth and its cured fish made a sleepy Lakeview block a culinary destination, it wasn’t a financially successful project. Montagne and Kim last month talked about the need for fiscal stability, something that working for a group like One Off can provide.
Montagne served as opening chef at the restaurant now known as Ocean Cut Chicago. Like Wu-Bower before him, he’s heading to the City of Brotherly Love for a brief stint to work for Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri. Montagne’s time at Vetri will help spruce up his Italian cooking skills which he’ll showcase at Nico.