A native of Venice, Italy, Dario Monni and Chicago-born wife Jill Gray have announced plans to open Tortello, a classic family-owned pastificio (fresh pasta shop) and casual dining experience, in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood this summer. Located near the intersection of Division and Wood Streets, Tortello is the debut concept by Monni, who has a background operating food and beverage programs throughout Italy, London and Dubai.
Inspired by the classic pastificio found in many Italian towns, Tortello will boast a handmade pasta program where sfoglinas (pasta makers)— trained by a 65-year-old sfoglina from Puglia, Italy— can be seen crafting a variety of daily fresh “nonna-style" pasta by hand as guests dine. An open kitchen will provide a glimpse of Italian culinary artistry taking place while a showpiece pasta-making station set behind a large storefront window will give passersby a view into the heart of Tortello’s pasta shop.
Additionally, Monni will sell Tortello’s signature fresh pasta and sauces to cook at home, as well as a small assortment of artisanal Italian imports for retail sale. The daily rotating counter service selection of handmade pasta creations served in the café will be complemented by all the staples of the Italian piazza—a simple array of Italian cocktails, wine and beer, authentic espresso drinks and pastries.
“I always knew I wanted to open a family-focused spot that’s simple, authentic and real. In Italy, food is prepared by hand with a lot of love and has an amazing way of uniting friends, family and even strangers. Italians say ‘fare una spaghettata’ when we want a meal of pasta to bring people together, and I’m thrilled to recreate this concept for the people of Chicago at Tortello with my own family in Wicker Park,” said Monni.
THE STORY OF TORTELLO: The origin of Tortello stemmed from Monni’s childhood, which was split between his city-dwelling mother’s side of the family in Venice and the rural lifestyle of his father’s relatives on the island of Sardinia. Monni’s Venetian grandfather owned a specialty food shop. The shop was the source of ingredients of his Nonna's long Saturday lunches, which always included a homemade pasta. From his Sardinian family, who worked as shepherds, cheesemongers, and butchers, Monni gained an appreciation for farm-to-table cooking and the flavor profiles of the island.
Like his grandfathers before him, Monni soon developed business acumen and a respect for natural ingredients, sparking his vision of opening a small, family-operated pasta shop of his own.
Tortello will be open for lunch and dinner service 7 days a week.