Dave Bonomi, owner of the top-notch Chicago pizzeria Coalfire, had no interest in opening a new restaurant. A nearly lifelong member of the hospitality industry — he first began working in kitchens at age 12 — he’d managed to steer his restaurant’s West Town and Lakeview locations through the early stages of the pandemic and felt that opening a business simply for the sake of growth was foolhardy.
His longtime friend, Tony Fiasche of the lauded deli Tempesta Market, agreed. A fresh venture wasn’t on his pandemic bingo card either. That is, until Bonomi toured the former home of Davanti Enoteca at 1359 W. Taylor Street as a courtesy to a friend. What he found came as a surprise: he liked the space and its landlords, it was near his home, and — unexpectedly — Fiasche showed interest.
“We put down a deposit the day we looked at it,” Bonomi says, laughing. “Essentially, we didn’t really think it through. Right after we gave the deposit to the landlord, I called an architect, a designer — then I thought, ‘Oh my god, I have to go tell my wife!’”
The pair, along with Fiasche’s father Agostino Fiasche, owner of the 37-year-old Ristorante Agostino in Montclare, are now reveling in the fruits of their labor at Peanut Park Trattoria, their new restaurant perched at the corner of Taylor and Loomis streets. It initially debuted in mid December, which lead to a series of stops and starts over Christmas and New Year’s. Nevertheless, Peanut Park is picking up speed and already earned a nod from Tribune dining critic Louisa Chu, who in late January gave it two-and-a-half stars.
The restaurant seats 90 in a space that weds the repurposed wood of its predecessor, Davanti, with bright pops of color that lend a contemporary feel. Cozy and unpretentious with a 15-seat concrete bar, it’s designed to exude a lived-in feel that’s comfortable but not dilapidated, Bonomi explains. “What we’re going for is essentially a neighborhood joint,” he says. “If you go to Italy and stop in a little restaurant that’s been there for 200 years, there’s going to be something modern on the wall. They’re not trying to be rustic, they just are.”
Peanut Park patrons can expect a short yet varied menu that eschews regionality in favor of seasonal simplicity with hits like linguine vongole, tender polpo fra diavola, and a massive 24-ounce bone-in ribeye with rapini gremolata. Fiasche is especially excited about introducing a few stuffed pasta weekend specials like mortadella and ricotta-stuffed ravioli with a brown butter shallot jam.
A debut in the midst of Chicago’s second pandemic winter hasn’t been easy for the partners — the omicron variant has resulted in a lot of canceled reservations — but they have high hopes for warmer days ahead, particularly on the restaurant’s 40-seat rooftop deck.
The series of events that led to Peanut Park is still a little surreal for Bonomi, but he has no regrets. “I’ve seen a lot of [owners] that shoehorn their way into a restaurant or deal just for the sake of growth,” he says. “I always said I’d never do it, but we found right landlord, the right spot, and the right people.”
Peanut Park Trattoria, 1359 W. Taylor Street, Open 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.