Italian eatery to open
4/23/12 Highland Park John des Rosiers and Chef Phil Rubino at the bar of the new restaurant in Highland Park, Modernon, on Monday, April 2rd. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 28, 2012 8:11AM
A significant hole in the Highland Park restaurant scene will be filled with a new contemporary Italian eatery when Moderno opens Monday in Renaissance Place.
In the space formerly occupied by Rosebud, restaurateur John des Rosiers and chef Phil Rubino will be serving up a menu that pairs traditional Italian fare with additional high-quality Mediterranean ingredients.
“We’re not afraid to use something from outside the borders of Italy,” said Rubino, highlighting his favorite menu item: Sardines from Spain pickled in-house with their own preserved lemons.
After the enviable task of testing the menu last week, des Rosiers reported that his first dinner order would be the hand cut chitarra pasta with veal meatballs. The homemade pasta sheets are sliced through a guitar-string-like cutter, creating a long, textured noodle.
The menu also features homemade pastas and pizzas in the $9 to $15 range, with entree prices between $15 and $20 for lunch and $20 to $35 for dinner.
“I love everything on the menu,” said des Rosiers, whose career started on the salad station at Gabriel’s in Highwood. “We will have far and away some of the best Italian food anywhere in the Midwest. It’s really something special.”
But it’s the prime downtown Highland Park location and the inviting outdoor seating patio that has des Rosiers most excited about the next week’s grand opening.
“It’s easily the best location and space for a restaurant on the North Shore,” said des Rosiers, who also owns Inovasi in Lake Forest. “There isn’t a combination better than a community that supports restaurants so well, being located in the middle of a large shopping district and next to a theater.”
The new indoor décor incorporates a modern vibe garnished with a warm and comforting feel. Des Rosiers matched sleek and modern chairs with warm maple color tables and a light cream color in the walls.
To ensure sure the Moderno experience is perfect for guests on day one, des Rosiers and Rubino have been in the restaurant preparing for four months now. They also will open in stages, just offering dinner for the first two weeks, then opening the patio with lunch and takeout afterward.
“That first visit is the most important,” des Rosiers explained. “The days of customers being overly patient and giving a restaurant two or three tries is over. People expect you to be very good the day you open.”