Giovanni Mancini, owner and executive chef at La Notte, is moving his five-year-old restaurant, currently at 118 N. Marion St., to the former home of Barclay's American Grill, 1120 Pleasant Street. Mancini aims to be up and running in the new location by Nov. 1.
Barclay's American Grille, housed in the Carleton of Oak Park closed quietly in early July. At the time building owner, Mike Fox, was not ready to comment on the closure or any plans for the restaurant space.
"The move has been in the works for a while," said Mancini. "I am so excited I cannot even sleep anymore."
Mancini had already been searching for a larger space for his restaurant when he approached Fox with an interest in moving into the Carleton. Fox also owns the Marion Street building where La Notte currently operates.
"He [Fox] has always been very helpful and cooperative. He is a great guy," said Mancini. "I sent him a proposal, we made some adjustments and came to an agreement."
Moving within the same village does not come without growth opportunities. La Notte currently operates in 1,900 square feet and can accommodate approximately 50 guests at full capacity. The Pleasant street location will offer Mancini 6,000 square feet and seating for 150 guests. Additionally, Mancini will work with The Carleton's banquet chef and manager to handle all private events at the hotel.
"Some people think I am crazy for doing this now, but this was a calculated decision on my part," said Mancini who has 40 years of industry experience. "I wouldn't even attempt this if I didn't think I was capable of succeeding. I gain space and I get to accomplish something I have always wanted to do."
The Italian focused chef has always dreamed of opening a speakeasy inspired space with a nostalgic supper club vibe. The move means he can "bring back the Philander's feeling" to Oak Park while keeping his food and menu true to the La Notte brand.
Philander's, Oak Park's first fine dining establishment, opened in the late 1970s and closed in 2009 before becoming Barclay's. Mancini was a regular a regular at Philander's prior to its closure. He looks forward to bringing his eight finger cavatelli and tortellacci to a space that holds fond memories for him and generations of Oak Parkers.
"I look forward to blending my story with the history of the place," said Mancini. "I am going to try to transport the feeling of La Notte to the Carleton space. I want to create my own legacy and history in the place for a long time to come."
Mancini indicated there are restauranteurs already expressing interest in taking over the Marion Street space.
"I will miss Marion Street," said Mancini. "Whoever goes into that place will have a great experience."
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