Alla Vita, the new Italian spot from Boka Restaurant Group, has opened in the West Loop in former Bellemore space along Randolph Restaurant Row. A more casual spot than its predecessor, Alla Vita features Boka Executive Chef Lee Wolen’s pastas, pizzas, and other Italian hits out of a wood-burning oven. The restaurant aims to draw diners of all ages to the northeast corner of Randolph and Jefferson streets.
In a clear departure from Bellemore’s opulent digs, private-event design firm Kehoe Designs has transformed the space into breezy and modern garden. A greenery-laden rosy wood pergola forms a soaring arch above diners, with loops of string lights and a new rock wall behind the bar further emphasizing the outdoor-indoor aesthetic. The light wood floors are hand-painted with flowers and a massive sculpture with waves of fluttering fabric hangs overhead.
Wolen hopes to foster a bustling atmosphere with a menu of family-style dishes designed to be shared amongst diners — a rejection of the pandemic isolation that loomed over much of the past year. There will be a selection of five to seven pastas; the opening lineup includes cacio e pepe ricotta dumplings, tagliatelle with beef shank ragu, and mafaldine with prawns, calamari, and Calabrian chili.
Pizza will also be a focus, though the pies don’t fall neatly into a pre-defined category, These are round, 14-inch pies with crispy, airy crusts. Early options include a classic Margherita as well as an artichoke pie (garlic cream, fontina, red onion) and soppressata (provolone, Calabrian chili, honey).
There is also chicken parmigiana and a vegetarian wild mushroom lasagna, as well as a whole-roast chicken served with onion agrodolce. Wolen has a particular affinity for chicken, which he also highlights at Boka and his virtual restaurant, GG’s Chicken Shop.
One of Chicago’s most celebrated hospitality companies, Boka Restaurant Group is known for successes like Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat and Japanese dining palace Momotaro; it closed Bellemore during the pandemic. Alla Vita is its first venture since the pandemic began.