Torchio Pasta Bar in River North serves an excellent semolina gnocchi baked in marinara sauce and an equally memorable tagliatelle Bolognese. Like everything else in the restaurant, the dishes are the result of owner Bill Varley’s passion for Italian food in general and pasta in particular. A retired engineer from Long Island, Varley says he always wanted to own a restaurant, but the choice of cuisine is a more recent development.
“Without realizing it ,” Varley says, “my long time interest in Italian food turned serious. I knew I wanted to learn more about Italian cooking, and I wanted to learn it from the people who still cooked the way Italians have cooked for centuries.”
Together with his wife Janice, Varley made several trips to Italy. Included in the various itineraries were opportunities to take hands-on, in-home classes led by Italian nonnas (grandmother), the generation credited with maintaining traditional Italian cooking. On one of the trips, Bill kept a diary of all the food he’d eaten and all the recipes he’d collected, information that plays an important role in the food served at Torchio.
With retirement getting closer, Varley and his wife Janice, who was also retiring, started to talk about the future. They’d both been to Chicago many times during their working lives, and they felt it offered a less stressful lifestyle than New York. Given that they were able to make the move before they actually retired, they had ample time to look for the right location for the restaurant.
Torchio has the vintage charm typical of restaurants tucked into buildings built early in the twentieth century. But as it turns out, the space offered little in the way of built-in charm. Varley mapped out an extensive remodel and-as planned- did all of the construction work himself. Then, well aware of what he could do and what he couldn’t, Varley brought the do-it-yourself project to a screeching halt.
He hired a sommelier to craft the cocktails and wine list, and Chef Salvador Ramirez to handle the kitchen. Varley and Ramirez work together to create and fine tune the savory part of the menu, while Janice, together with Bill's sister Jolene Varley (a graduate of Peter Kump's New York Cooking School), handles the sweets. Like the rest of the menu, the desserts, including a not-to-be-missed tiramisu, are spot on.
Torchio Pasta Bar, 738 N. Wells Street 312.643.0543 Call for reservations.
Indoor seating for 51 including bar area, seating for 6 at the exhibition-style pasta making station, seating for 16 on the dog-friendly sidewalk patio
Lunch: Tuesday-Saturday 11:30 am-2 pm
Dinner: Tuesday-Thursday 5 pm-9pm, Friday & Saturday 5 pm-10pm
The Village of Long Grove is hosting this year's edition of its annual Strawberry Fest Friday-Sunday, June 21-23. Expect lots of strawberries and strawberry flavored edibles, entertainment, a classic carnival and a strawberry pie eating contest.
308 Old McHenry Road, Long Grove http:/longgrove.org/festivals/strawberry-festival
Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights, which is part of a Japanese supermarket chain (Mitsuwa Corporation), is celebrating the completion of a major renovation from Friday, June 14 through Sunday, June 16. In addition to entertainment and special prices on a variety of items, the store will be hosting a bluefin tuna filleting show on Saturday from 11:30 AM-12:30 PM.
Mitsuwa Marketplace, 100 E. Algonquin Road, Arlington Heights
Les Dames d'Escoffier
On Sunday, June 30, the 100-plus members of Chicago's chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier are sponsoring a Culinary Bazaar hosted by Envision Unlimited at 1801 N. Spaulding Ave. Chicago. Expect an array of both new and "gently" used culinary treasures, some of them donated by the chapter's members, all of whom play a role in the f00d and beverage industry.
Proceeds of the sale will support women in the food, beverage and hospitality industries through scholarships and community outreach programs.
To buy tickets, click on https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4244879
Australian Wine Tasting
III Forks Prime Steakhouse in Lakeshore East is hosting a "Sommelier for a Day wine tasting on Wednesday, July 3 from 5-7 pm. Sommelier Anton Licko will be leading participants through a tasting of red and white wines from Australia. An array of hors d'oeuvres will be served.
The fee to attend is $25 per person. To RSVP, call III Forks at 312.938.4303.
III Forks Steakhouse, 180 N. Field Blvd. in Lakeshore East