After 15 years, Pelago — chef Mauro Mafrici’s Streeterville Italian restaurant — will serve its last guests on December 31. Mafrici didn’t want to shutter Pelago — his new landlords refused to renew the tenured restaurant’s lease.
“I had a 15-year lease and now it’s finished,” Mafrici says. “I didn’t want to end it like this. I wish the space could be mine.”
The building Pelago has called home since 2008 at 209 E. Delaware Place was once the Raffaello Hotel. When the hotel closed, the owner sold it to the restaurant’s current landlords who wanted to turn the building into apartments. Prior to the pandemic, in 2019 a Miami-based firm, Maxwelle Real Estate Group, bought the property with plans for a renovation. According to Mafrici, those landlords say they need the restaurant’s space to complete that work.
Mafrici hails from Trieste, Italy. He worked in the kitchen in 2005 when Lo Scolco earned a Michelin star in its first year in New York City. The building’s landlords, according to Mafrici, have waffled on what their exact vision is for the building. Regardless they want him out.
“They told me they want to make it into an apartment building, they want to do different things, they want to redo a new hotel, they want to completely change everything inside,” Mafrici says. “They are a little bit confused. They’re very confused and honestly, I don’t know what they’re thinking.”
Guests can expect standard dinner service at Pelago until the restaurant’s closure save for two special dates. On Christmas Eve, dinner service will feature a tasting menu celebrating Vigilia di Natale — the Feast of the Seven Fishes — for $145 per person for a four-course meal, or à la carte service. Dinner service on New Year’s Eve, Pelago’s final day, will be a celebratory Capodanno prix fixe dinner for $300 per person, which includes all food and wine, to mark Pelago’s more than a decade of fine Italian cuisine and the coming new year.
After Pelago’s final plate leaves its kitchen, Mafrici will be tasked with the physical process of dismantling his restaurant.
“I can take [everything] to figure out what is the next step because I want to do another project,” Mafrici says. “Always when I do things I always try to do it as best I can and take a little bit more time — maybe months and months. These are things I need to figure out, to try to find the right space or you know, if I want to stay here or if I want to go in the suburbs.”
Mafrici, who has spent 45 years in the hospitality industry, confirmed his next project would be a continuation of his career as a chef. Whether that project will remain in the city remains unknown for now.
There are many things Mafrici says he will miss with Pelago gone but most of all he says he will miss his guests, both loyal and continuously new. Over the years at Pelgao, Mafrici has cooked for A-list celebrities including Robert Redford and Kobe Bryant.
“A lot of people pass by,” Mafrici says of Pelago’s Streeterville location, which continued to draw in new guests with its tantalizing menu’s primary focus of homemade pastas and Italian seafood. “Customers will be the [biggest] thing I will be missing.”