Chef Lee Wolen and Boka Restaurant Group have opened Alla Vita in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. Located at 564 W. Randolph Street, the restaurant features Italian fare, a wine list and cocktail program. The indoor dining room seats approximately 114 patrons, and an outdoor patio seats approximately 32 guests. Alla Vita is now open for dinner seven nights a week.
“In 2019, my partners and I had been talking about opening an Italian restaurant when suddenly the pandemic hit,” said executive chef Lee Wolen. “That abrupt break in our daily routine allowed me to reflect on what guests really wanted to eat when going out to a restaurant: fresh, seasonal ingredients with a fun, approachable menu. When our dreams of opening Alla Vita quickly became a reality, I was excited to create a menu focusing on simple, delicious Italian food.”
Alla Vita’s menu, created by Chef Lee Wolen and Chef de Cuisine Darren Underway, is broken down into six sections: antipasti, salads, homemade pasta, pizza, al forno, and veggies. The chef known for his roasted chicken at Boka and fried chicken at GG’s Chicken Shop, also offers a signature chicken dish at Alla Vita; Chicken Parmigiana with fire roasted tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and basil. Highlights include Lasagna with wild mushrooms and fontina; Arancini with scamorza cheese, ’nduja aioli, and fennel pollen; Chopped Salad with gem lettuce, radicchio, finocchiona, pepperoncini, tomato, red wine vinaigrette; Ricotta Dumplings; and a variety of pizzas cooked in the wood-fire oven.
Boka Restaurant’s pastry chef, Kim Mok, takes the lead on all things sweet, applying her years of experience from the dining room at Boka to highlight classic Italian desserts including Tiramisu with Vecchio Amaro del Capo, malted mascarpone, and coffee; Dark Chocolate Budino with amarena fudge sauce, amarena cherries, white chocolate chantilly, and cocoa nib tulle; and an assortment of gelatos (pistachio, olive oil, nutella) and sorbettos (mango passion fruit, coconut lime).
Alla Vita’s wine program, overseen by Beverage Director Kimberlee Beeler, features a predominantly Italian and West Coast Italian varietal list, with a focus on small, lesser known wineries. The 80 bottle list also features a wine by the glass program, ranging in price from $10 to $15 to $20. Alla Vita is also in the process of bottling its own house prosecco, which will only be available in the restaurant. The cocktail program, overseen by Anna Thorn, is a mix of classic cocktails with riffs, like the Salted Rosemary Paloma, Espresso Martini, Amaro Daiquiri, and Iced Irish Coffee, and a variety of seasonal spritzes. Thorn has created a list of balanced, easy to drink cocktails that feature spirits, as well as a focus on vermouths and amaros.