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Chef Opens Diner with an Italian Twist on Diversey

By Paul Biasco | January 25, 2013 7:36am

LINCOLN PARK — Lincoln Park's newest restaurant option on Diversey Avenue has the classic diner feel — and a menu full of made-from-scratch items, including mozzarella and pasta.

"You have American diners and Greek diners, but no one does it with an Italian twist," said David Spingola, chef and owner of Isabel's Restaurant.

The 112-seat restaurant opened Tuesday in the spot where The Grove, 501 W. Diversey Ave., once dished out its own take on diner food.

"It's been a greasy spoon place for 45 years," Spingola said as he took a quick break from dishing out lunch Thursday afternoon.

The Wrigleyville resident, who has bounced around some of the city's top restaurants both in the kitchen and at the front of the house, decided it was time to be his own boss about two years ago when he walked out of a job interview.

Spingola, who had last worked as a manager at The Gage on Michigan Avenue and had once worked at Gibson's Steak House, knew he wanted to name his first restaurant after his great aunt Isabel shortly after walking out of that last job interview.

"She was the nicest person in the world," he said of his great aunt, who immigrated to the U.S. from Italy. "You would walk into her home as a kid and it was 'What do you want to eat?' "

While the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus features many standard diner items such as skillets, omelets, club sandwiches and meatloaf, the Italian dishes are the specialty here.

Homemade is the name of the game for Spingola, who turns shipments of fresh cheese curds from Wisconsin into fresh mozzarella. Each batch of its Bolognese sauce cooks for about five hours, and the brine for its Reuben takes about seven days.

"I buy mayonnaise," he said. "I literally only buy mayonnaise."