This year has certainly had its shares of highs and lows for the team at Cucina Paradiso. As many of our loyal diners and friends know, the restaurant that we opened in 1995 suffered a major fire this summer that has kept Cucina Paradiso closed since early June. Our hope was to reopen the restaurant as soon as possible but we have faced the very common-but equally frustrating-insurance and construction delays. We hope to be open again in mid-December if all goes as planned. And then, just last month, we dealt with the untimely passing of our father. It’s been a tough few months for both of us, to put it mildly.

That being said, we have had our joys, too, with the safe arrival of Anthony and Lisa’s second son in mid-August. His birth reminds us that new beginnings are certainly worth appreciating and celebrating and so are the people in our lives who make a difference every day, which is why we write this letter. We are enormously grateful for the kindness and well wishes of our customers and community members who have been so supportive over these difficult past months.

As many residents know, every year on Sept. 11, we host a special night with members of the Oak Park Local 95 Fire Department to commemorate the day and raise funds for non-profit organizations that are important to the local Oak Park firefighters. It was very important to us that we keep this tradition even while our restaurant remained closed and also to thank the brave firefighters who risked their own safety to help stop the fire at Cucina Paradiso. Many people stepped up to the plate to help us make our “Night Serving Others” happen again this year, which raised $7,500 in just one evening through ticket and raffle sales. This was the most raised in any of the past five years!

A very special thanks to Dan Haley and his entire staff at the Wednesday Journal for helping us promote the dinner, purchasing tables and for their concern for us and our employees at Cucina during these past months. We also want to thank the following businesses for donating their time, products and people to ensure our Sept. 11 benefit was a success:

19th Century Club, Allure Medical Spa, American Shirt & Lettering, Jason Bodan, Burke Beverage, Casa Nostra/Michelle Baking, CertifiedLand Grocers, Channel 7 News & Roz Varon, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Hardware, Chicago Party Rental, Comcast, Domino’s Pastries, Dressel’s Ace Hardware, Dry Fire, Michelle Fitz-Henry, House Red Wine Shop, Kane County Cougars, Bill & Chrisie Lafleur, Lake Theatre, Loro Auto Works, Mac Daddy Salon, MC Foods, Nonno Pino’s, Northwest Meats, Oak Park Cigar, O’Sullivan’s, Michael J. Perkins, Prairie Bread Kitchen, Racconto Pasta, Kathleen Reed, Reuter’s Bakery, S&W Machinery, Shanahan’s, Shawn Lafleur, Starbucks Oak Park, Supreme Lobster, Team Blonde Jewelry, Testa Produce, The Carlton Hotel, The Frame House, Westgate Flowers, Bill Wilke.

We are incredibly humbled and honored to work in a community that rallies behind its own. We look forward to the day we can reopen Cucina Paradiso and see our Oak Park friends and family. Thanks to all of you who have expressed your concern and support to us. It doesn’t go unnoticed. Here’s to a safe and happy 2008!

Anthony and Nick Gambino
Owners, Cucina Paradiso Restaurant

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