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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published April 15, 2010                                                        
 

Local eateries nourish community's spirit

Retail store owners bring expertise, high standards and friendly atmosphere to their shops

 By Ken Knutson
 kknutson@thehinsdalean.com

   The ingredients that make up the bond between a local dining establishment and its patrons are all natural, according to Hinsdale’s restaurateurs.
   Good food and friendly service are musts, they say, but there’s an organic emotional component that also ripens along the way.
   Chuck Page, owner of Page’s Restaurant, said the relationship resembles a close friendship more than a business transaction.
   “We know something about their families, their kids,” Page said.
   Regular customers are greeted by name, and their preferred menu selection is stored in the memory banks of the wait staff.
   “Half the time, the girls just write down the order; they don’t even have to ask,” he said.
   This year marks the 30th anniversary of the cozy diner, which reflects its throwback charm through historic Hinsdale photos on the wall and the U-shaped counter that is the site of a veritable town hall meeting each morning.
   Gathering at Page’s early in the a.m. for discourse on current events and sporting news is a daily ritual for the largely male clientele. Whenever the topic of renovation comes up, one item is always non-negotiable.
   “They tell me, ‘Make sure you still have the horseshoe counter,’ ” Page said.
   When former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole made a campaign stop at Page’s as part of the presidential race in 2000, one of the restaurant’s regulars saw a photo of the event in a newspaper while on business in Germany.
   After returning home, the man told Page he swelled with hometown pride when he saw it.
   “His first reaction was, ‘Bob Dole’s sitting in my seat,’ ” Page said.
   Being in a community for three decades means grieving when a long-time customer passes away. It also means celebrating as families grow.
   “Some families, I’ve had four generations come in here. When kids come in, they can’t screw off because they know we know their parents,” Page said with a chuckle.
   Consistency is a major component of Giuliano’s Ristorante’s success, according to manager Chrissy Murray, both in the continuity of the staff and in knowing what’s on the menu.
   “(Our customers) are familiar with most of the faces here,” she said. “We put out a consistent product. People know what they order is what they’re going to get.”
   Murray, who has worked at the restaurant for 10 years, said the employees and customers have a special connection. The small town environment and local ownership help create the shop’s unique, close-knit flavor.
   “We can ask each other, ‘How was your weekend?’ or ‘How was your spring break?’ ” she said. “We know you by name when you come in here.”
   At Giuliano’s, the aim is to be a place for all ages, Murray said.
   “We predominantly cater to families. We felt that’s what the town was missing,” she said. “Kids can color at the table, and we have a kids’ menu.”
   Ensuring that positive dining experiences are the standard, Murray said the staff never rests on its laurels.
   “It’s all about customer service. If you’re not happy, we want to know about it. How can we make it better for you next time?” she said.
   Hua Ting has been satisfying local appetites for 16 years, and hostess Esther Chu has been greeting its patrons almost from the beginning.
   Chu said it is gratifying when former residents who have relocated make it a point to stop in when they’re in town.
   “Some people have moved to other states. When they come back to visit, they want to come to the restaurant to eat,” she said.
   She, too, has seen young couples become young parents, then evolve into parents of teens.
   “We’ve seen all of these kids grow from little ones to high school,” she said. “They send us Christmas cards.”
   A common theme among restaurant owners and workers is maintaining an enjoyable work environment. That quality, said Zak’s Place owner Yamandu Perez, permeates every aspect of the operation.
   “We take our food and wine seriously. We just don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re goofy,” he said.
   Attention to service means any member of the wait staff is ready to meet diners’ needs, and Perez makes sure he is as visible as possible.
   “We’re one of the few restaurants that you will be helped by almost every single person working here. If you’ve been here and you don’t know who I am, then it was my day off,” he said.
   A call comes from someone hoping to make a reservation on Sunday, the one day Zak’s Place is closed. So Perez referred the caller to a rival restaurant down the street.
   “I think Hinsdale first. I want them to come here,” Perez said, pointing to a table display of business cards from village stores and a vase for showcasing flowers from a local florist. “I’m all for keeping people in town.”
   He said people have likened the restaurant to the iconic “Cheers” from the popular sitcom, a comparison he takes pride in.
   “We want this to be a place where you feel like you belong, so it almost feels like your own little club,” Perez said. “It’s the personal touch.”
   That personal touch also helped Page outlast initial predictions that his restaurant would close in six months. Today, many would say it and neighboring eateries are essential parts of the village’s character.
   “I’m just a business owner trying to make a living and trying to give a good product to the customers,” Page said. “And you get a smile, too.”

 

 

 

 

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