A classic Chicago Italian restaurant that closed two years ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic will soon return to the South Loop under new ownership. Cafe Bionda, a nearly two-decade-old favorite among neighborhood residents at 1924 South State Street, is set to reopen Thursday, September 15 with some cosmetic updates and the same Sunday red sauce that made the original restaurant a hit.
Regulars and fans were heartbroken after the restaurant shut down in 2020 amid ever-changing public health mitigations, with some even composing direct appeals to the owners online, begging them to reopen the spacious dining room. Despite tough odds, however, Cafe Bionda’s many adherents are getting their wish thanks to 8 Hospitality, the group behind late-night party spots including Hubbard Inn and Joy District.
“When the prospect of taking the reins of Bionda came up, I knew that given the history and success of this space the bar would be set higher than perhaps a new venture from scratch,” CEO Carmen Rossi said in an email.
Rossi hopes to set former diners at ease with the appointment of veteran chef Coismo Riccardi, a native Neapolitan who has spent much of his nearly 20-year career leading luxury hotel kitchens at spots like the Hotel Palladio in Venice, Italy, and Half Moon in Montego Bay, Jamaica. While his menu won’t stray too far from classics, with options like veal parmigiana and pork chop Vesuvio, Riccardi has worked in his own touches as well — he describes his ravioli with braised beef short rib and red wine demi-glace as his calling card.
In addition to fresh paint, new light fixtures, and a new bar top, the 125-seat dining room and 30-seat bar will walk the line between classic and contemporary with vintage Vespa ads and posters for Italian films, marketing director Joe Proppe says. The restaurant also has a private event space with its own bar, music system, and lighting.
“This is a big step for our hospitality group as we dive into more of the restaurant side of things,” Proppe says. “As we’re in this for longer, we’re maturing — there’s only so many nights you can oversee a nightclub as you get older.”
Cafe Bionda, 1924 South State Street, is scheduled to open Thursday, September 15.