Published June 12, 2014
New Virant restaurant set to open
Work on other restaurants, retail development continues during busy time
for village center
By Pamela Lannom and Ken Knutson
Downtown Hinsdale has been a hub of activity recently.
Acclaimed chef Paul Virant has announced he will open his latest restaurant, Vistro, on Washington Street later this summer.
One retail business has moved to a new location and one restaurant is planning a move. Work on three restaurants and one new retail development continues.
A decade after he opened Vie in Western Springs, Paul Virant is serving up a restaurant in the town he calls home.
Vistro, which will open at 112 S. Washington St. in late summer, will meet a need that has gone unfilled, Virant said.
“I think we have filled a particular void that was lacking in the area with what we do at Vie,” he said. “I guess I would say that there still continues to be a void of the particular concept that we are doing (with Vistro). As we’ve gotten to know our customers and our families over the years and living in Hinsdale and having young kids, there’s a real need for a restaurant that covers everything for everybody.”
The name pays tribute to Virant’s flagship restaurant, which earned a Michelin star in 2012, and a bistro, a place where Virant said people from different walks of life and different ages gather to enjoy food and drink.
The menu is designed to be approachable for families and will take advantage of a wood-burning oven where pizzas, veggies, fish, crostini and meats will be prepared.
“It’s nice to work with a piece of equipment that I haven’t worked with much in the past,” he said. “We’ll do a few pizzas. We’ll do a lot of other things under the wood oven.”
Virant is also excited about the restaurant’s soft serve machine.
“It’s a dual chamber, so we’ll do a basic flavor that we’ll keep and then the other chamber could be coconut, it could be cherry and chocolate, it could be peaches and cream. It will be seasonal and it will be fun.”
Virant will continue his practice of showcasing products grown in the Midwest in well-executed dishes. Vie pastry chef Elissa Narow and bar manager Bill Anderson will lead the pastry and beverage programs at Vistro.
While Vie is a destination restaurant for many diners, Virant said Vistro will be a place to visit a few times a month or a couple of times a week or for carry-out. The check for a family of four will average about $100.
“I want to keep it pretty affordable,” Virant said.
The look of the 80-seat restaurant is inspired by a classic French bistro, said Jody Tate of JMT Designs in Hinsdale.
“We’re kind of mixing the old with the new,” she said. “It’s going to be very family-friendly and casual, a really nice casual vibe to lend itself to Paul’s culinary talents.”
Tate is a longtime friend of Virant’s wife, Jennifer, and the two have paired up to create the right look for the interior. Tate said it’s been “absolutely wonderful” working together.
“We’ve been right on the same page all along. We’ve had the same vision and had a lot of fun with it,” she said.
The restaurant initially will be open from 4 to 10 Monday to Saturday, with plans eventually to open for lunch, Virant said.
“I think it’s going to add another dimension to the dining scene,” he said.
The Fuller House
After initially planning to create a 200-seat bar and restaurant in the front of Fuller’s Hardware Store, Doug Fuller said he’s changed direction to create a smaller, more comfortable space.
The establishment at 33 E. First St. will feature a horseshoe-shaped bar on the first floor and a 120-inch projection TV that can show eight games at once. Seventy-two guests can sit at the bar and tables on the first floor, with another 35 to 40 seats upstairs in the mezzanine facing First Street.
The northern two-thirds of the second floor will remain home to Fuller’s Second Floor and now also houses Max Fitness, owned by personal trainer Scott Grove.
For the restaurant, Fuller has a new partner, Hinsdale native Matt Weil, and a new name, The Fuller House.
“If you go to one of the Fullers’ houses, you always have a good time,” Fuller said.
The menu will include slow-roasted prime rib, wings, burgers, chicken sandwiches and salads — upscale bar food at reasonable prices, Fuller said. More than 20 craft beers will be available on tap and bottled beer will be kept on ice.
“We’re going to be the best place to be part of the game,” said Weil, who has 17 years of experience in the bar and restaurant industry. “We’re going to bring you into it, make you part of it.”
A Hinsdale Central graduate, Weil is excited to be part of a venture in his hometown and happy to be working with a family like the Fullers.
“This is about the Fullers and the fact that they’re such a social family,” he said. “Obviously they understand service. What’s so important to them is that they do it right.”
Fuller said he hopes construction can begin later this month or in early July, with the restaurant set to open — he said he really means it this time — on Sept. 7, the day of the Bears’ season opener.
Winter was not a friend to the Garfield Crossing development at First Street and Garfield Avenue.
“We’re probably about two months behind on the project,” said Todd Naccarato of Hinsdale, who owns the building with his brother, Clay. “We hope to make it up if we get a good stretch of weather here during the summer. We actually put down the foundation back in November and we really couldn’t do anything until February.”
Naccarato expects the 23,000-square-foot building at 26-32 E. First St. to be completed by mid-fall and said he’s working with potential tenants.
“At this point we have about 25 inquiries into the building for both retail and office,” he said. “We’re in the process of working out leases.”
Although the building could accommodate a restaurant, Naccarato there has not been any interest from restaurateurs, possibly due to the number of restaurants in town or slated to open.
Naccarato said he drives by the building every day to check on the progress.
“We’re excited about the brick that they’ve started on the one side,” he said. “Until the brick went up, we were concerned about how it looked. We think that brick fits with the block.
“There will be five separate storefronts,” he added. “They will all have their own character.”
Naccarato said he is positive about the current economic climate and the level of interest the project has generated.
“There seems to be a lot of people interested in doing boutique stores and specialty stores and new concepts, which is great,” he said. “That hasn’t been the case for a long time since the recession.
“This hopefully is a wonderful addition and we’ll get all the stores filled up in Hinsdale,” he said.
Baldinelli Pizza will soon be moving into a bigger — and more exposed — location at 114 S. Washington St.
Owner Tom Distasio said the site is quite a shift from the eatery’s current low-profile digs in the alley off Garfield Street.
“It appealed to me because of the parking and the visibility. The foot traffic is great,” he said.
The fact that the previous tenant, Cold Stone Creamery, had built out bathrooms and other mechanical elements didn’t hurt, either.
“A lot of the stuff was done already,” Distasio remarked.
He looks forward to welcoming more customers looking for a sit-down meal, a request that’s been hard to meet up to now.
“I get calls all the time, ‘Can you sit 10? Can you sit 12?’ ” he said.
In addition to having considerably more dining space, a banquet room in the back will accommodate birthday parties, office gatherings and other large groups.
Distasio said longtime patrons will see a familiar menu at the relocated Baldinelli, which will also have a wood-burning brick pizza oven.
“It’s just basically going to be casual,” he said. “We won’t have wait staff. You’ll take your food and sit down at the table.”
Distasio said he hopes to be open for business by the end of July, contingent on the village’s issuance of permits. He said he also plans to apply for a liquor license to serve beer and wine.
Anna Vojik doesn’t need many words to sum up her feelings about her store’s new space in 14 W. Hinsdale Ave.
“I love it!” she said.
Her customers agree.
“They love it and they are very positive and they think this is the best thing to happen to ArtQuest,” she said. “They are so glad I didn’t close the store, that I stayed in Hinsdale.”
Vojik spent 15 years on Washington Street. When she was given the option to expand to the space next door, which would have doubled the size of her store, she declined.
Her new store, which opened May 1, provides her about 200 square feet more and feels much larger. The two front windows provide greater opportunity to showcase merchandise and add more natural light.
Andrea LaRusso of Artistic Interior Design works out of a space in the back of the store, which is a great asset, Vojik said.
The store also will allow her to carry more merchandise, but Vojik said she put off ordering additional inventory while the move was under way.
“I held back my purchases because I couldn’t deal with opening boxes and opening more boxes,” she said with a laugh.
Yia Yia’s should be welcoming diners to its Grant Square site next month, according to co-owner Ted Maglaris.
“We hope to do a July 1 opening,” he remarked, saying the timing depends completing the renovation and the inspection process. “As far as we know, I don’t see a delay past the first week of July.”
Maglaris said the front of the restaurant is ready, with a little more work remaining in the kitchen and back area.
Training of staff will begin later this month, and he looks forward to introducing patrons to the eatery’s juice bar and fresh breakfast and lunch offerings.
“Everything will be good when you open up the door and people come in,” he said. “Everything is going to look beautiful.”
Work is well under way on the build-out of Wild Ginger, a pan-Asian restaurant coming to 44 S. Washington St. that will feature Chinese and Thai cuisine as well as sushi.
Efforts to contact Wild Ginger ownership to determine a projected opening date were unsuccessful.