CHATHAM — Brothers Anthony and Michael Cherry opened a soul food restaurant Saturday in the former home of the legendary Izola's.
Occupying 20,000 square feet at 522 E. 79th St. is Luversia's, a family restaurant that Anthony Cherry said was named after his late mother, Luversia Faye-Cherry, who died in 2008.
"She was a good person who taught us a lot about life," recalled Anthony Cherry, who grew up in Englewood but now lives in South Shore. "Five years from now I want to expand the restaurant to have a location on the West Side, North Side and downtown. I know those are ambitious goals, but I am an ambitious person."
Izola's, named after Izola White, opened in 1940 and closed in 2011. Luversia's has continued in part to use the former restaurant's identity by offering an "Izola's Ole-Skool Burger" for $6.99.
Prices for other items at the non-alcoholic eatery range from $5.99 to $12.99, and the menu includes catfish, fried chicken, burgers, pork chops, turkey, smothered fried steak, greens, mashed potatoes, peach cobbler and more.
Having previously owned three restaurants, Anthony Cherry said cooking is what he loves.
"I had owned The People's Choice at 80th and Ashland [Avenue] in 1996; Pisces Sea Food also at 80th and Ashland from 1999-2004; and the New Dating Game Cafe [inside the New Dating Game Lounge] at 89th and Stony [Island Avenue]," he said.
Luversia's, which accepts credit cards and has carry out available, is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and remains open until 11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Twenty employees have been hired so far, mostly residents of Chatham and Grand Crossing, Anthony Cherry said. His son, Tyree Cherry, 21, also works at the restaurant as a bus boy.
"And we are looking to hire a few more people as we speak," Anthony said.
First-time customers gave the service and food two thumbs up.
"The catfish was moist, not greasy and the cabbage was fabulous," said Yvette McDonald, who has lived in Chatham since 1976 and is now a retired information technology specialist. "And I don't eat everybody's cabbage, but I'll eat this cabbage."
McDonald, who is single, admits to eating out every week and was a regular customer at Izola's.
"She had some good food. From what I can tell the atmosphere here seems good and the food is worth coming back for," she said. "There are not many [sit-down] restaurants in Chatham left. Hopefully this place will stick around because I like supporting local businesses, especially black-owned businesses."
McAllister and Crystal Darnell drove from their homes in the South Chicago neighborhood to eat lunch at Luversia's on Monday.
"A friend of mine told me about this place and said the food was good, so I decided to try it out," McAllister said. "And she was right. The food is really good. I would definitely recommend it to my friends."
Darnell attended Saturday's grand opening.
"The food was good then and it's good now," said Darnell as she chowed down on a burger and fries. "Man, I can hardly finish my food. That's how you know it is good. When you are stuffed and can't eat anymore, you know it's good."