WILMETTE – Downtown Wilmette is evolving into a North Shore restaurant hub and soon residents will have yet another reason to dine out in the village. The popular Glenview restaurant Gusto is opening a new location in Wilmette, in the space that was formerly occupied by Contadino.
Currently, owners Andrew Karas, Rocco Sapienza and Pablo Manriquez are busy getting the restaurant ready for customers. The space is getting a facelift with fresh paint and decor to create a comfortable and friendly environment suitable for casual family dining. Like the Glenview location, the restaurant will offer traditional Italian favorites, such as eggplant parmesan, chicken vesuvio, bruschetta, fried calamari and veal dishes.
Manriquez, who will be the chef and manager of the Wilmette location, has cooked Italian food throughout his entire 32-year career. When asked how to describe his food, Manriquez said, “simple, good quality, homemade, great value, traditional Italian food.”
Collectively the partners bring nearly 90 years of restaurant experience to Gusto. Kara owned the Glenview restaurant for 30 years, when he decided to bring in new partners and relocate to downtown Glenview two years ago. The partners found that Glenview residents loved the new downtown location and updated decor. When the space came up to expand to downtown Wilmette, the men seized the opportunity. “This was a very good idea to come to Wilmette because there is nothing like good Italian cuisine in this area,” Kara said.
And it’s their industry experience that they plan to build upon in the new location. While they will be bringing some of their staff from the Glenview location to Wilmette, the partners are also training the former waitstaff from Contadino at their Glenview restaurant.
“We are going to run it like Glenview. The hands-on approach. Taking care of customers and making sure the customers are happy and satisfied with their experience,” said Karas. “We do this by touching every table and talking to the customers while they are dining,” he added.
When asked what they thought of Wilmette’s flourishing restaurant scene, the men responded with enthusiasm.
“We love it. That is why we are here. We are very excited to have this kind of cuisine in downtown Wilmette and I think there is a great need for it,” said Karas.
The Wilmette restaurant plans to open mid-September and will be open for dinner only, starting at 4 p.m. A banquet will be available by appointment for up to 200 people, and will be available for day time reservations as well as evenings.