In a world where trendy restaurants come and go, the staying power of Northbrook’s Trattoria Oliverii – opened in 1991 – proves that success often boils down to just two key ingredients: quality and continuity.
With the exception of the restaurant’s rotating menu of creative, seasonal weekly specials, very little has changed in the 27 years since owner Guido Oliverii opened his popular Northern Italian trattoria on Shermer Road.
“There are local families who’ve been coming here for years,” said waitress Kathryn Samuelson, a 12-year veteran of Trattoria Oliverii. “We’ve watched their kids grow up from high school, to college, to career.”
The charming, homey, 70-seat restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday, and dinner on Saturday and Sunday, serving up crowd favorites like Chicken Vesuvio, Eggplant Parmigiano, Veal Milanese, Penne Russo, Pasta Prosciutto and thin crust pizza to loyal regulars, many of whom order the same dish and sit at the same table each visit. Old-country Italian music, green-checked tablecloths, and friendly staff greet guests upon arrival.
“We highly recommend reservations every night of the week, but they’re absolutely essential on Friday and Saturday nights,” said manager George Sari. “We get very busy.”
Particularly popular, said Sari, is Trattoria Oliverii’s fresh fish and seafood, sourced regularly from Supreme Lobster in Villa Park. The restaurant’s best sellers include a fried calamari antipasti, as well as a Pesce Bianco Livornese secondi, prepared with Trattoria Oliverii’s signature plum tomato sauce, and topped with capers and fresh black olives.
Trattoia Oliverii takes pride in chef Eddy Berto’s weekly specials, presented each Friday evening. Recent selections included Linguine Mirafiore, a mixture of shrimp and peppers served over a black linguine; and Vitello Oliverii, featuring veal medallions with shallots and cherry tomatoes. The restaurant offers a menu of reasonably priced Italian and Californian wines, including best seller Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, listed at $21 a bottle.
With over a decade of experience waiting tables in Trattoria Oliverii, Kathryn Samuelson has tried virtually everything on the menu.
“The minestrone soup is the best I’ve ever tasted,” said Samuelson. “And our homemade tiramisu has totally spoiled me. I won’t order it anyplace else.”
A Northbrook resident, Samuelson has seen the Shermer Road commercial district rise and fall with the economy. The recent addition of several new cafes and boutiques, said Samuelson, has reenergized the area.
“There’s a lot of activity around here now … especially during the summer,” said Samuelson. “The street traffic is amazing.”
Samuelson said commuters often walk from the train station straight to the restaurant after work. In the warmer months, Trattoria Oliverii strings up lights outside and places a cluster of tables on the sidewalk, providing al fresco seating for 24.
A small but lively bar in the back section of Trattoria Oliverii allows customers to relax and order a drink before being seated. This area also connects to the trattoria’s dedicated parking lot and busy take-out window, where customers can dash in and collect pre-ordered pizzas and pastas to eat at home.
And while Trattoria Oliverii doesn’t deliver, they’ve been known to bend the rules when duty calls.
On a spring Sunday afternoon back in 2012, a Metra train – en route to Chicago – broke down in Northbrook, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded in the village. Eager to help, the kitchen staff at Trattoria Oliverii fired up a dozen cheese pizzas. The restaurant’s patrons then served the pies to hungry travelers mingling outside.
“Our customers came to the rescue,” said Samuelson. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
After the Oliverii family emigrated from the Abruzzo region of Italy in 1971, Guido Oliverii opened a breakfast joint in Northbrook, followed by the full-service restaurant Abruzzo in the Deerbrook Mall.
Today – in addition to Trattoria Oliverii – Guido owns Ristorante Bottaio in Libertyville, and Oliverii North on Antioch. Guido’s nephew Tom Quaranta oversees all three Oliverii restaurants, ensuring that service and food is consistent across the brand. Each restaurant also caters and hosts private parties.
“We haven’t changed much over the years,” said Trattoria Oliverii manager Sari. “We do what we do, well. Our customers know what to expect.”
Trattoria Oliverii, 1358 Shermer Road, Northbrook, 847-559-8785, Open Monday- Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday, 4 p.m.- 10 p.m., Sunday, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.