West Loop Italian restaurant Gioia Ristorante & Pastificio is finally slated to debut on Randolph Restaurant Row after three years of planning. Chef and partner Federico Comacchio and Chicago-based Learco Restaurant Group will introduce open his new establishment on Saturday, June 26 in a new building at 1133 W. Randolph Street.
Comacchio spent 35 years in the industry, but this is first solo effort. He previously worked as executive chef at popular Chicago Italian restaurants Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush and Coco Pazzo. He was on the brink of opening in April 2020, but the pandemic arrived. Rather than trying to capture a brand new audience with takeout food, Comacchio opted — with the support of an accommodating landlord — to wait for the city to fully reopen before presenting his menu to diners.
“It’s been a consistent fight every day — a long, tough process, but we made it,” he says. “There’s no time for fear.”
The chef is a native of Lodi, Italy, but his menu will draw from all of the country’s 20 regions for its central culinary focus: seven or eight varieties of pasta staff will made fresh daily at the restaurant. But in a marked departure from tradition-bound Italian cooking, Comacchio will use lesser-seen flours and tweak techniques to create surprising mashups like Ramen di Pesce with Puglian grano arso noodles; a variety of seafood like crab, red snapper, and calamari; a rich tomato-lobster broth, and leafy greens.
Other notable dishes include Paccheri with tomato sauce and aged Parmigiano that’s finished tableside (the restaurant will provide custom cloth bibs to keep diners safe from stains). There’s also an enormous Orecchia di Elefante — a double veal chop Milanese — for two. Comacchio says he wants to offer exciting choices for adventurous diners while also catering to those looking for comfort over creativity. As ingredients come in and out of season, patrons can expect to see menu changes between six and eight times per year.
Gioia will also aim to tempt an after-work crowd with an abbreviated menu of light options such as fritto misto and little nests of fried spaghetti with aged caciocavallo. Diners can also anticipate cocktails and an expansive wine list touting more than 150 options with 70 percent devoted to Italian wines and 30 percent featuring American wines. The 22-seat bar doesn’t have a draft system but will offer six bottled beers — five Italian brews and Maplewood’s Son of Juice IPA.
Neutral earth tones and dark wood run throughout the restaurant, evident in grey-washed oak floors, textured plaster walls, and marble U-shaped bar, wine cabinet, and high-top tables. Custom plaster light fixtures that resemble large stones hang overhead, a slatted wood screen partitions off the bar from the dining area. Large windows will open completely to let in summer breezes, Comacchio says.
It’s been a long journey for Gioia — which translates to joy — but opening date is finally near.
Gioia Ristorante & Pastificio, 1133 W. Randolph Street, Scheduled to Open Saturday, June 26.