It’s been two years since Sabatino’s — a legendary Northwest Side Italian-American restaurant — closed, and now a key member of the kitchen’s staff is preparing to open his own venture. Avvio American Italian Kitchen should debut in late September at 4358 N. Elston Avenue. Joel Piedra, a former chef at Sabatino’s, is opening the restaurant with stepson Daniel Carrasco, according to Block Club Chicago.
Piedra began his career at Sabatino’s as a 17-year-old, so when the restaurant — famed for its classic rendition of Shrimp DeJonghe — closed in 2018, he found himself somewhat adrift, Block Club reported. Avvio is Piedra’s second attempt to open an independent restaurant, as plans for to launch in a space beside neighborhood bar McNamara’s on Irving Park Road fell through. Piedra shared the chef responsibilities at Sabatino’s with head chef Jose Ramos. Ramos has since moved on to lead the kitchen at another red sauce spot, Mart Anthony’s in West Town.
Fans of Piedra’s work over the past few decades will likely be pleased by menus posted to social media, though they are still subject to change. Former Sabatino’s owners and brothers Enzo and Angelo Pagni have reportedly given him the go-ahead to cook anything he likes off the original restaurant’s menu, according to Block Club. Diners will find familiar hits like “Rich’s Special,” an over-the-top combo that includes a 5-ounce filet, marsala, breaded shrimp, and veal piccata; and Shrimp DeJonghe (as both an appetizer and entree). There are also tons of pastas, carne, vitello, and pesce.
An opening date is not yet announced, but Piedra reportedly hopes to open with limited indoor dining in the next two weeks. Ownership has not yet responded to a request for more information.
The Pagni brothers opened Sabatino’s in 1978, and the restaurant came to embody a certain kind of retro Italian restaurant that embeds itself in the hearts of Chicagoans. When news of its impending closure was announced, four months before doors were scheduled to close, loyal fans took to social media to express heartbreak and share stories, photos, and videos of the restaurant. The restaurant enjoyed a 40-year-run.
Avvio American Italian Kitchen, 4358 N. Elston Avenue, Scheduled to open in September.