Nine months ago, Michael Meranda revealed his plans to open a new Italian restaurant in River North that featured his award-winning gelato. The path to opening Sapori Antichi Bar Italiano hasn’t been as smooth as their tasty Italian desserts are, but on Monday Meranda and wife Mary finally opened their restaurant. They’re serving lunch and dinner with “an authentic Italian presentation” indicative of “what’s going on in Italy right now.”
“You will really get a family experience,” Meranda said, noting that his mother — Eugenia — may even work in the kitchen. “It’s old world with modern Italian flair.”
The center of the operation, literally in the middle of restaurant separating the bar, is a fancy display case (it’s the only one in the country, Meranda said) where customers can come in and pick out their selection from the seven rotating flavors. They’ll then walk to the bar and order, then wait for the bartender to scoop. Meranda, who runs Gelato D’Oro in suburban Addison, won first place for his gelato in 2016 at the Gelato World Tour’s Illinois Challenge held last year at Chicago Gourmet.
But it’s just not sweet stuff inside the 48-seat restaurant, which has a full bar. Meranda’s family is from Calabria, and his chef’s from Bari. They’re here to share their Italian heritage with items including polpo in giardino. The dish, from the southwest region features tender octopus with an assortment of veggies. There’s plenty of small plates, and the desserts made on premises. Meranda said they also roast their coffee beans at the restaurant.
Meranda knows that Chicago has stiff competition when it comes to Italian food. He hopes the extra time they’ve taken to open will pay off big. They’ll also have a family-style Sunday brunch and breakfast on Saturday. Meranda is excited to treat locals and visitors in the tourist-heavy district that surrounds his restaurant.
“We are not your spaghetti and meatballs Italian restaurant,” he said.
Check out the menu below. Sapori Antichi Bar Italiano is now open.
Sapori Antichi Bar Italiano, 22 W. Ohio Street, (312) 624-9058, open 11 a.m to 10 p.m. on Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Sunday brunch is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.