Cristiano’s brings taste of Milan to Chicago suburbs – Independent Profile – Brief Article – Interview
Cristiano Bassani, chef and co-owner of Cristiano’s Ristorante in Palatine, Ill., outside of Chicago, has adjusted to suburban lifestyles after working in some of the world’s most sophisticated cities. Trained at the Instituto Professionale Arberghiero in Milan, Italy, he apprenticed at Villa d’Este in Lake Como and then immigrated to the United States in 1990 to work at Le Madri in New York. Subsequently, he cooked at Sapore Di Mare on St. Bart’s, at Coco Pazzo in Chicago, and Bice in Chicago and Miami.
Deciding he wanted to be his own boss, he opened Carpaccio in Palatine, which he completely remodeled and enlarged last year with the help of a silent financial partner. He renamed it Cristiano’s. The 150-seat restaurant serves contemporary Northern Italian cuisine.
What’s different about operating a restaurant here from in the downtown of a major city?
It was hard to get used to being out here after Chicago, Miami and New York. There are more families. You have big chains, and you have to compete on price and portions.
Do your customers appreciate having an urban restaurant like yours close to home?
A lot of customers like not having to travel downtown. There’s nothing like the Northern Italian cuisine that we are doing around here. We make everything from scratch. I don’t go to the city anymore, either.
What are your biggest challenges?
Labor and costs. It took us a long time to find good people. You train them, and then they leave. Also, it’s not a good time for restaurants. When the war started in March, the first two weeks I lost 50 percent of my business.
Describe your wine program.
We have 150 wines, half Italian and half from California. We have a lot of half bottles. We don’t list vintages because they change every time you order. The prices are from $28 to $200.
What are your long-range goals?
One day I would like to open a restaurant downtown; I’d like to have one in the city and one here. Right now this is enough.
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