It's been two years in the making, but Sarto's in Jefferson Park will open its doors tomorrow for dinner service, welcoming guests in a beautiful space to enjoy the metropolitan Italian cuisine. Owner Taylor Swallow and his wife Kajsa, along with chef Brian Laird have brought the restaurant to fruition, drawing on a mutual love for Italy and creating a social, neighborhood environment.
Named for the Italian word that means tailor, Sarto's is housed in a 4,000-square-foot space within a turn-of-the-century building, which was coincidentally occupied by a fabric shop in the 1950s. After an extensive renovation, the look is clean yet inviting, with white and gray tones and the use of plenty of Italian marble.
The work was done with the help of Sprung Construction, Sexton Lawton Architecture, and interior designer Kirsten Brundage. Subtle details play on the name, from antique Italian sewing machines and pinstripe fabrics, to an old sewing table for a hostess stand and needle-shaped door handles. Even the restroom corridor resembles a fitting room area, complete with textured houndstooth wallpaper.
Overall the restaurant will seat 60 inside, plus an additional 20 at the bar and 10 at the cicchetti counter. The northern patio has room for 30, and another patio on the east side will serve as a standing-room area where guests can enjoy drinks as they wait for a table, when weather permits. A private dining room seats 30, and is equipped with a hidden drop-down projector for special events or meetings.
As carefully crafted as the design is, chef Brian's Laird menu also aims to "tailor" the dining experience for guests. The board is reflective of what's relevant and happening in current Italian cuisine, from small plates to house-made pasta, entrees, and more. The menu will change frequently, but look for small pizzas and salads, traditional Piemontese plin pasta with veal and kale stuffing, proteins like braised lamb or whole quail, and familiar classics such as chicken parmesan.
The cicchetti bar will be left up to Laird's discretion on a daily basis. Book a spot at the counter in advance and allow Laird to come up with a series of snacks and plates, which could range from deviled eggs to tuna carpaccio.
"This is exciting for me, because I've always loved being in the dining room and seeing people appreciate what they're here for," Laird says. "To be able to interact with the neighbors and really get an understanding of what people like or don't like...it's a way to express our artistic view and food."
The beverage program will highlight classic cocktails and spritzers, a popular Italian combo of prosecco and various aperitifs like Aperol. A small selection of beer will be chosen based on what complements the food, and the approachable wine list numbers around 30 or so options, mostly Italian or Italian in style. A reserve list with 12 wines is also available.
Diners can see into the bread and pasta station from certain points of the room, which will also be the site of classes on cocktails, pasta-making, wine, and more. Another interactive feature to be incorporated in the future is a dining cart that can be pushed around the room, allowing Laird to serve up specialty items like risotto from a large parmesan cheese wheel.
As a bonus, Sarto's has also created an adjacent market called the Pantry. Here you'll be able to stop in and purchase grab-and-go or made-to-order items like pasta, sauces, soups, salads, pizza, and more. It will also be a space for diners to enjoy a glass of wine and some meats and cheeses onsite. Once the Pantry opens next week on Monday, November 3, it will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sarto's is located at 2900 West 25th Avenue and will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. While dinner is the sole offering to start, Laird is also considering adding a European-style lunch down the line.
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