Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants
If you’ve been living in Chicago for long enough, you’ve probably noticed there are a couple big dogs that have been ruling the restaurant industry for quite some time now. Maybe you think of Paul Kahn or Rick Bayless as your idol? Or maybe you had dinner the other night at RJ Grunts, Maggianos, or Hub 51? Now that you’ve had a good taste (pun intended) of New American, Mexican or the many flavors of Lettuce Entertain You, it’s time to experience one of the other restaurant corporation masters. Phil Stefani Signature.
Phil Stefani restaurants began in 1980 with his quintessential Italian outpost, Stefani’s, in Lincoln Park. Phil Stefani Signature now owns over 10 restaurants, not including many quick service options at Chicago airports and downtown malls. But, let’s start with Stefani’s, which started it all.
Phil Stefani opened his first restaurant with his Uncle Lino, dedicating his life to hard work and authentic Italian food. And let me tell you, it was delicious food you could always count on. Growing up in Lincoln Park in the eighties and early nineties, this was my family’s go-to restaurant. We had our favorite waiters, who knew us too, and they’d even let my brother and I journey into the kitchen sometimes to make our own pizzas. If the friendly atmosphere wasn’t enough, your basket of bread and olive oil came with a whole roasted garlic head. You can’t beat a deliciously, perfectly roasted garlic where you dig the soft cloves out and spread them on fresh bread. I’m sure it was here my obsession with garlic began, but I suppose I’ll be safe from vampires (and potential first-dates) for the rest of my life. But it’s these simple pleasures that delighted the people of Chicago, paving the way for more of Stefani’s restaurants to come.
Tuscany in Little Italy opened not too long after, and since then locations have appeared in the suburbs of Oak Brook and Wheeling as well. During the renovation of Navy Pier in the early nineties, Riva materialized and Stefani has since expanded to control much of the Pier’s eating options. And if you’ve lived a Chicago summer, there is no way you could miss the beachside restaurant Castaways at North Avenue Beach. Now you can find a numerous Signature restaurants in downtown neighborhoods, including favorites Tavern on Rush and 437 Rush, as well as cafe locations in airports and downtown malls. You can also book Stefani Signature for private events and catering, as well as purchase sauces and other products.
Phil Stefani is a former chairman of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, knowing well what Chicagoans and visitors alike crave. In 2007, Stefani teamed up with Levy Restaurants to form Chicago Restaurant Partners as the food service providers for McCormick Place. If you are going to trust anybody to welcome visitors into the city of Chicago with good food and friendly service, it’s these guys.
Unfortunately, the original Stefani’s restaurant closed years ago, and I still mourn the loss everyday I crave fresh tortellini, or roasted garlic, or wood oven pizza… But luckily we can all head to any of Phil Stefani’s Signature Restaurants to grab a wonderful meal.