Cucina Paradiso celebrates its nineteenth anniversary this month in the same Oak Park location, and owner Anthony Gambino says the anniversary is really something to be proud of. “For a restaurant to have flourished this long is a story in itself, and we have a real sense of accomplishment and gratitude to our customers.”

Gambino credits Oak Park with much of his restaurant’s success. “We have a great neighborhood location, and we love being a neighborhood restaurant. Over the years, it’s been wild seeing our clientele grow up. Parents bring their young children here, and now those children are adults, bringing their own kids. They’re beyond customers. They’re family.”

With a long-time staff, Cucina Paradiso is set up to make customers feel like family, particularly when they return again and again. Gambino says that his staff gets to know the customers. “Our staff recognizes the regulars. We know what they want to eat, what they drink and where their favorite table is.”

While the clientele and the neighborhood play a role in the restaurant’s longevity, it wouldn’t be sticking around if the food wasn’t up to par. Gambino notes that the emphasis at Cucina Paradiso has always been on fresh, innovative food. “The menu evolves slightly every few weeks. It’s always been our business model to rotate food selections with the seasons and based on what’s fresh and what’s hot.” The menu is printed on paper to allow for tweaks every few days.

Fresh and seasonal may be the mantra, but there are a few mainstays Gambino doesn’t dare take off the menu. The Rustic Salad, Penne Arrosto, Chicken Pistachio and Bread Pudding are here to stay. Gambino created those recipes before the restaurant’s inception, and light-heartedly predicts a customer uproar if the crowd-pleasing favorites were ever not available.

Cucina Paradiso, 814 North Blvd., Oak Park, IL 60301 invites everyone to celebrate their nineteen years in the business with two days of specials. On Oct. 20 and 21, all dine and take-out customers will receive an anniversary gift: 20 percent off all food purchased.

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