Former 312 Chicago chef Dean Zanella is leaving the super-seasonal restaurant after a decade, and he’s talked about his departure — and his plans for what’s next — with both Time Out Chicago (which broke his departure) and The Stew, to whom he gave a brief Q&A;.
One thing is clear: Zanella’s next move isn’t going to be fancy-schmancy. Picking up on the zeitgeist, he promises that his new place will be “more casual with more of a neighborhood feel…. That’s the way it’s going if you look at the really hot spots: Urban Belly, Smoque, everybody is going downscale.”
He’ll be sticking with his roots, though, as he tells the Stew: “I am looking for a neighborhood spot to open a moderately priced Italian restaurant…of course it will be seasonal and I want to use all the local farmers I’ve used. The part I have to stay tight-lipped about is the second element to it that will be part of the same space. Let’s just say that it will be something that will be great for Chicago, something Chicago needs and currently doesn’t have.”
So here’s our prediction. We think we’ll see a panini- and salad-heavy lunch menu, a focus on fresh pastas with seasonal sauces at dinner, and as for that shared space? For something Chicago needs but doesn’t have? We’re going to guess it’s one of the following:
A seriously artisanal bakery — think an Italian equivalent of New York’s Balthazar bakery.
An Italian cheese shop, stocked well beyond your usual parmigianos and taleggios — think ubraico, brebiblu from Sardinia, daily house-made ricotta and mozzarella.
A gelateria! Which we would visit constantly!
A hardcore espresso bar — think Illy, but more conducive to lingering.
But we’ll have to wait and see Zanella’s venture doesn’t even have a space yet — we’ll check back in in the spring.
Chef Dean Zanella on his next move after 312 Chicago [The Stew]
Chef Dean Zanella done with 312 Chicago [TOC]
312 Chicago [MenuPages]
312 Chicago [Official Site]