They’re calling it a “space-lift” at Cucina Paradiso.

The longtime Oak Park Italian restaurant at 814 North Blvd. — Cucina has been operating in the village for 22 years — has given their dining room and bar a new look, adding a semi-private dining area that seats 30 for private events and special occasions.

The new Cucina also used reclaimed wood for their new booths and bench seating with two-top tables.

The centerpiece of the revamped restaurant, however, is the bar that accommodates roughly 20 guests. Cucina Paradiso co-owner Anthony Gambino said the new bar gives patrons a better view of all the options available — especially the wine selection.

“We wanted to display everything we could so the consumer could see, before they make the selection, what the bottle is, the vintage, where it comes from — and this back bar allows us to do all of that,” he said. “The other thing we were able to do now with this larger bar is bring in a lot more different types of liquors, to offer different types of craft drinks as well, which have been really popular for the last few years.”

Gambino said it’s not Cucina’s first “space-lift.” The restaurant upgraded about 10 years ago, he said, noting, that restaurants “go through a lot of wear and tear, and you have to maintain them.

“You have to constantly reinvest in your business, and we find this to be a necessity,” Gambino said. “We are always upgrading our kitchen as well.”

The commitment to change is not just decor, though, according to Gambino. He said the menu changes on a weekly basis, regularly featuring new items and specials.

“Between a three- and four-month timeframe, there could be 50 to 60 percent new items,” he said.

Oak Park-based Aria Group Architects designed the remodel as it has for all of Gambino’s operations. Anthony and his brother, Nick, are also co-owners of Elmwood Park-based Burger Moovment (formerly Burger Boss) and Oak Park-based Twomaytoz Event Catering.

The renovation took a little less than a week and was completed in mid-February, Gambino said.

“Regular guests and new guests just love it and are really impressed by it,” he said.

Cucina Paradiso noted in a press release that the restaurant is Italian fare with Mediterranean influences and features “little plates” and a variety of pastas, pizzas, salads and other entrees.

Gambino said the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with Romano cheese and drizzled with balsamic reduction is still a favorite, “which people can never seem to get enough of.”

Some of the newer menu items include:

  • Grilled octopus, served over fingerling potato hash, with Brussels sprouts, hazelnuts and pancetta, drizzled with horseradish aioli and balsamic reduction.
  • Black truffle sacchetti filled with parmesan, ricotta and truffles, and topped with gorgonzola cream sauce and shiitake mushrooms.
  • Lake Superior whitefish, pan seared and served with an array of fresh vegetables.

The restaurant is holding an open house with a complimentary antipasto buffet, March 13-16 from 5 to 7 p.m.


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