There are no red checkered tablecloths or grandma’s classics at this new Italian restaurant in Naperville, and that’s on purpose.
Che Figata, which means “totally awesome” or “totally cool,” is designed to bring an authentic, yet modern, take on Italian dishes to the tables of its restaurant at CityGate Centre and the tables of diners across the suburbs, Executive Chef and Founder Mark Grimes said.
With a menu featuring $15 pastas to $80 steaks and a market where customers can buy ingredients to prepare at home, Che Figata is set to open at 4 p.m. Thursday at 2155 CityGate Lane, Suite 103.
“We’re not just doing everything old-school,” Grimes said, “but that totally cool, awesome interpretation of Italian food.”
The idea is to let people experience inventive takes on Italian preparations — such as biscuits and gravy done up in the style of the Italian cheese-pepper-and-pasta dish “caio e pepe,” and give them access to the ingredients used to make those very recipes.
“As a chef and a diner, I’ll go out and have something that tastes amazing and I’m like, ‘Where do you get this?'” Grimes said. “So if you really enjoy something in the restaurant, it’s here.”
Eataly in Chicago employs a similar restaurant/market concept, but Grimes said the trek to 43 E. Ohio St. is a tough one for many suburbanites. So Che Figata’s Naperville location, just off I-88 at Route 59, could make it more convenient for more frequent visits.
“We want to be a special place,” Grimes said. “But we don’t want to be (only) a special-occasion place.”
The market at Che Figata includes pre-made sandwiches, salads and meat and cheese plates for guests of the nearby Hotel Arista to buy and take up to their rooms. It also sells fresh-made pastas, sauces, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, doughs, flours, herbs, tomatoes, aged rice, coffee and wine from a cellar with 95 varieties, all from Italy. It’s a specialty lineup, Grimes said, featuring the same supplies used to make restaurant dishes.
“We don’t have 17 different olive oils,” he said. “We have the olive oils we use.”
An open kitchen behind a curved bar will lend an element of theater to the experience, as chefs will slice and dice, boil, bake and sear right in guests’ line of sight, using specialty kitchen equipment such as an 850-degree “inferno” wood-burning grill and a stone pizza oven. They’ll even give samples.
Che Figata will serve Roman-style personal pizzas with a slightly doughier, sturdier crust than the foldable Neapolitan style, which Grimes said is more suited for the Chicago-style tastes of diners in the Midwest.
Specials will rotate among dishes with components chosen not to cut corners but to impress and “deliver an amazing flavor.”