Torchio Pasta Bar is now open at 738 North Wells Street in River North. Serving authentic Italian-inspired cuisine with a focus on fresh, house made pasta, Torchio has been a longtime dream and a project many years in the making for chef/owner Bill Varley. Torchio, which means "press" in Italian, is named after the vintage hand crank pasta press as well as the pasta shape resembling the base of a torch or campane ("bell") from the Abruzzo region of Italy. The restaurant is the product of Varley's extensive travels throughout Italy with his wife, Janice, and his culinary studies with Nonnas from Venice to Palermo and everywhere in between. Torchio now serves dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Diners can expect a lunch service to start Friday, June 7.
Located in a building dating back to the early 1900's, Torchio's vintage vibes stem from original 100-year old exposed brick walls complemented by warm dark wood accents, antique brass fixtures and a tin ceiling. The Varleys have jointly designed the space, revealing 100-year old brick and building not only a pasta bar, but also a custom hammered copper bar anchored by an 1880's mantel that Janice discovered at Architectural Artifacts in Ravenswood. The 1,800 square foot restaurant offers seating for 51 including the bar area and features an exhibition-style pasta making station with seating for 6 guests. In the warmer months, guests can dine al fresco on a dog-friendly sidewalk patio. Lined with bountiful flower boxes, the 170 square foot patio will have seating for 16 guests under yellow patio umbrellas and awnings. At night, string lights will add to the patio's ambiance.
With a great appreciation for the beauty and craft of Italian food, Varley created a menu that represents a slice of the authentic tastes, warmth and feel of the Italy he loves. Varley's menu of fresh pasta made in-house daily and seasonal ingredients will range from $9 to $32. All of the pasta is made on premises, with the exception of gluten-free pasta, which will be imported from Italy. Guests will enjoy dishes like Semolina Gnocchi (baked in a marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese), Bucatini Puttanesca (San Marzano plum tomato sauce, anchovies, capers, Gaeta olives), Spring Vegetable Pappardelle (asparagus, peas, zucchini and yellow squash in a lemon basil butter sauce topped with pecorino romano), Gemelli and Pesto (rustic Italian "twin" shaped pasta with pesto, string beans and sautéed potatoes) and more.
Guests can round out their meal with a dessert menu presented tableside that features sweets like house made Biscotti, assorted Italian cookies, seasonal Fruit Tart, Ligurian Olive Oil Cake or choice of gelato.The complete menu is available HERE and by request.
For the bar program, Torchio will offer wines by the glass and bottle, assorted spritz selections including Limoncello and Aperol, and a variety of Italian and local craft beers along with handcrafted cocktails for $13. Highlights include the Percato (Ford's Gin, Nonino, Cocchi Americano, red bell pepper, orange bitters), Milan (Maestro Dobel tequila, watermelon, lime, salt, Fernet, agave) and Calabria (Old Forester Rye, fermented habanero, lime, agave, grapefruit, hibiscus tea).
ABOUT CHEF/OWNER BILL VARLEY
Whether as an engineer and graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, or as Deputy COO of a large, publicly traded utility company, Varley consistently demonstrates expertise, enthusiasm and creativity. A longtime dream of his only possible "post-retirement", Varley now turns his talents to Torchio Pasta Bar. An avid cook and lover of all things Italian, Bill and his wife, Janice, both originally from New York, have traveled extensively throughout Italy. Inspired by his culinary studies in Italy, Torchio is the realization of Varley's vision as a welcoming place where friends gather for great conversation over a great meal.
Another family member, Bill's sister, Jolene, left Manhattan to join them in Chicago and has been instrumental in developing the dessert menu with Bill's wife Janice, which features regional Italian desserts. Jolene is a graduate of Peter Kump's New York Cooking School (now the Institute of Culinary Education) and spent time as a baker at Sarabeth's Restaurant in NYC and in the executive dining room at Gourmet Magazine.