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Ex-Sabatino’s Chef Opens New Italian-American Restaurant

Avvio Italian Kitchen debuts in Irving Park

An opening sign graphic transposed on to a restaurant dining room.
Avvio Italian Kitchen is open.
Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

Avvio Italian Kitchen, the new restaurant from former Sabatino’s co-head chef Joel Piedra, is open and serving specialities like steaks, seafood, pasta, and — of course — Shrimp DeJonghe. News of the forthcoming spot broke in early September, much to the delight of Sabatino’s fans who have been missing the beloved Northwest Side Italian-American staple since it closed in 2018.

Those in-the-know may recognize a number Avvio’s menu offerings. Appetizers include classics like Oysters Rockefeller and prosciutto di parma with Parmigiano Reggiano, followed by plenty of pasta, from gnocchi to tortellini to Fettucini A Mare Chiaro (clams, shrimp, calamari, mussels, white sauce).

Hearty secondi include Veal Saltimbocca Alla Romana (prosciutto, wine sauce), Lobsters Al Diavolo, and chateaubriand for two. Shrimp DeJonghe, naturally, is available in appetizer and entree-size portions. There’s even a flambe Baked Alaska for dessert, but no alcohol — Avvio is BYOB, at least for the time being. Sabatino’s founders Enzo and Angelo Pagni gave Piedra license to feature anything he wants off the original restaurant’s menu, according to Block Club Chicago.

Outfitted in blues and greens with a pressed-tin ceiling and arched windows lined with white brick, the spacious dining room brings a little modernity to the otherwise traditional dining room with geometric light fixtures and exposed Edison bulbs. There’s limited indoor seating because of the pandemic, as well as carryout, but doesn’t feature any outdoor spots. Ownership hasn’t yet responded to requests for more information. Reservations are available on the restaurant’s website.

A lifelong member of the Chicago hospitality industry, Piedra was just 17 years old when he began his career at Sabatino’s, where he shared duties with former co-head chef Jose Ramos. Avvio, which Piedra opened with stepson Daniel Carrasco, is his first restaurant. Ramos now leads the kitchen at another Italian spot, Mart Anthony’s in West Town.

Pagni brothers opened Sabatino’s in 1978 and operated the restaurant for 40 years. Over the decades, it earned a reputation for heartwarming red sauce Italian dishes, stellar service, and a timeless ambiance that delighted generations of diners.

Avvio American Italian Kitchen, 4358 N. Elston Avenue, Open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Reservations available online.

Avvio Italian Kitchen

4358 N. Elston Avenue, Chicago, IL 60641 708-667-0866 Visit Website

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