Um, pasta perfection, great wine, and incredible hosts? Sign me up for regular date nights at Osteria Bigolaro! I had the opportunity to sit down with Owner/Chef Anthony Gargano this past week and enjoyed hearing all about the roots to this intimate restaurant.
Chef Anthony grew up locally in the Bartlett area, and was involved with food at a very young age. His parents owned a pizzeria nearby, and after school he would go to the restaurant, do his homework, and the help with food prep for the rest of the evening.
Once he was older, he began working with his brother in construction, which kept him busy for some time. When the market took a dip, projects lessened and his girlfriend at the time (now wife!) encouraged him to use this flexibility to pursue a culinary education. He attended Le Cordon Bleu in 2009 and graduated in 2010. During his education, he had the opportunity to spend 3 months cooking at a cozy bed and breakfast in Sorrento, Italy. It was here he realized cooking was his passion!
After returning to the states, Anthony developed his skills with catering opportunities, working at The Purple Pig in Chicago (where he met his now sous chef, Josh!), and taught at Cooking Skills Academy in Itasca. After awhile, he realized he missed the restaurant industry and began working at The Finery in St. Charles and The Grandstander in Geneva, owned by David and Juliette Reyes.
Anthony and his wife had always discussed opening a restaurant, but as with most things in life, the timing had to be right. The right opportunity came this past Winter, and on February 23rd, 2017, they took a leap and signed the lease for Osteria Bigolaro. Osteria means a casual Italian eatery, while a Bigolaro is an extruder used to make pasta. You may notice the Bigolaro in their logo for the restaurant!
It took about 2.5 months to secure their permits, and Anthony got to work using his construction skills. In fact, with the exception of some electrical and plumbing work, the former Subway location was completely renovated and designed by Anthony himself! Anthony told me the expression “blood, sweat, and tears” was a legitimate way to describe the hard work that went into the buildout.
He moved bathrooms, painted ceiling tiles at 1:30am, and poured over 3,000lbs (yes, you read that right) of concrete! Anthony says he still has nightmares about the bags of concrete piled up at the back of the space, ready to be mixed. With the exception of getting a jackhammer stuck in the concrete for about 36 hours (talk about frustrating!), the construction went smoothly. Well, as smoothly as 70-80 hour work weeks CAN go.
Anthony designed the space to include an open kitchen. He believes this adds to the overall experience of dining at Osteria Bigolaro, and allows his guests to feel included in their own meal. No gas is used in the kitchen – everything is cooked on induction burners – so it lowers the residual heat that you might expect to move into the dining space. They also included a pasta well, a pasta making station, and equipped the kitchen to allow the chefs to have to move as little as possible!
Anthony and his wife wanted to keep the interior décor clean, bright, rustic, and casual. They ordered the table legs from California, and Anthony’s father-in-law built all the tables in his garage. His mother-in-law built the live plant wall, and they found sources of inspiration from area home stores.
The menu, Anthony told me, is inspired by many of the dishes he ate with his grandparents at family meals and his time cooking in Italy, though he adds they are made with greater culinary flair. He limits his dishes to 4-5 fresh (never frozen) ingredients, and plans to change portions of his menu seasonally.
Though the menu will always be pasta heavy (many of his pastas are considered vegan!), he also plans to include braised meats and protein specials on the weekends. Gluten-free and egg-free options will also be available to guests, and you can pair a delicious wine or beer with your dinner.
Ryan and I thoroughly enjoyed tasting some of the menu items, and I know we plan to return so that we can make our way through the rest of the menu. During our visit, we started with a drink (wine for me, of course, and Ryan chose a Crystal Lake Brewing selection), and opted for Grandpa’s Salad – a refreshing combination of cucumber, tomato, mint, basil, red onion, and balsamic vinegar.
We also tried the braised pork special, which featured a fresh salad and roasted potatoes as the side. The meat was incredibly tender and the potatoes had a ton of flavor!
My favorite was the Rigatoni! As Ryan jokes, “Carb me up, Scottie!” This delicious dish includes a pork-based san marzano tomato sauce, ricotta, roasted zucchini, and bread crumbs. SO good! And seriously – look at all these beautiful colors!
You can expect to see a lot from Osteria Bigolaro in the future, including pop-up dinners, cooking classes, wine pairings, and the opportunity to host your special event in their space. For now, check out one of their incredible pastas, enjoy a glass of wine, and bring someone special to share a meal with. Be sure to say hi if you see me there sometime!
317 W State Street, Geneva, IL 60134
Tuesday - Thursday: 5PM - 9PM
Friday - Saturday: 4PM - 10PM