In a neighborhood full of Italian options, chef Joe Farina is giving River North another with Victory Italian, a spinoff of his South Loop restaurant, Armand’s Victory Tap. Farina’s new restaurant opens on Monday at 434 W. Ontario Street. The former Rosebud chef described it as a neighborhood restaurant that gives River North a refreshing change of pace from an over-hyped scene.
“I’m doing a lot of the stuff I grew up with,” Farina said. “I’ve put in the years and it’s finally coming together — it’s exciting.”
Farina described the second-wave of Italian-American immigrants as providing his inspiration. They’ll serve fresh pastas, Farina’s signature meatballs, and specialty pizzas from Armand’s Pizzeria, including a 3-foot long pie. Armand’s is the 65-year-old suburban Chicago chain that’s partnering with Farina to open new restaurants. Farina helped reboot their first restaurant in Elmwood Park.
Though River North comes with its own expectations and hyperbole, Farina feels there’s an audience for Victory. For instance, his wife, Yvonne Farina, is also a partner at the restaurant and is handling the wine list. They’re focusing on keeping bottles affordable. Cristal champagne will cost $280 a bottle and Farina’s seen other restaurants selling that for double. They’ll also pour old-school cocktails like Old Fashioneds, Sidecars, and Negronis.
“Everybody knows what a bottle costs nowadays — they go to Binny’s and what not,” he said. “I just don’t want to gouge people with wine or cocktails.”
Farina’s focusing on the food. He’s making a special ciabatta garlic bread. They’ll have daily specials like chicken cacciatore and braciole over cavatelli. They’re bringing a fried chicken with mashed potatoes special up from the South Loop. Farina said the “salads are off the chart.” Farina said he’s found people who are mourning the shutter of Scoozi, and Victory will fill that niche.
“People are looking for classic Italian food like what I’m trying to do,” he said.
They’ve revamped the former Pranzi space. Crews replaced everything except a brick wall, Farina said. The interiors feel like an old-school Chicago Italian-American restaurant with black and white framed photos on the wall and a mix of dark woods and burgundy. The construction has created a place River North residents can visit multiple times a week.
“Joe’s Mama’s meatballs are ready, everything is ready,” Farina said.
Victory Italian opens on Monday.