Gioco, the South Loop Italian restaurant that’s been around for 19 years, is closing following dinner service on Sunday. The shutter seemed inevitable after the restaurant’s owner and a real estate agent revealed problems in securing a new lease back in September. There’s no word yet on what the landlord plans for the soon-to-be vacant property at 1312 S. Wabash Avenue.
The restaurant’s lease expires in August, and co-owner Howard Davis said he couldn’t work out an extension. The South Loop was much more barren 20 years ago, and property prices were lower. Davis estimated his team paid about $1,500 per month when they first opened Gioco. That’s a steal compared to current prices.
“We had a great run,” Davis said, who added that he spoke with business partner Jerry Kleiner about the decision. Kleiner lives in California. “We tried for quite a while to strike a deal.”
Mother’s Day will be the farewell for the restaurant. Davis said he’s looked at other locations to possibly reopen, but nothing fit. While Gioco’s story comes to a conclusion, Davis will spend more time in Andersonville where he helps his girlfriend, Julia Zhu, with her restaurant Bar Roma. The North Side dining scene is vastly different from the South Side’s, where developers are reluctant to invest in neighborhoods, Davis said. He’s also involved with Le Sud, the upcoming French restaurant in Roscoe Village. He’s been part of the industry for decades, making his mark as part of the defunct KDK Restaurant Group, a pioneering Chicago company which ran acclaimed Red Light in West Loop and Opera in South Loop, among others. They took chances in areas other companies didn’t want to venture into until they saw KDK’s success.
Sunday marks the end of the line for Gioco and Davis advises loyal fans to come in for one more meal or glass of wine.