RIVER NORTH — After 14 years at 437 N. Rush St., the simply-named restaurant under the Phil Stefani group umbrella received a recent facelift, courtesy of Stefani's daughter Gina, the new project manager at the helm of the family's 11 eateries.
Last week, Phil Stefani's 437 Rush reopened with a new, sleeker look: cool slate floors, reflective silver and white accents, and a tiled metallic backdrop to replace the old mural behind the S-curved bar.
"It's just time," Stefani, 30, said. "We got this place 14 years ago, when I was a teenager. Before, it was a classic steakhouse — dark lighting, white tablecloths, the whole thing.
"It was just time for a change, to stay competitive," said Stefani, who previously worked as an event planner.
The next generation restaurateur says the new look reflects her style, since her father passed down the reins to the restaurant shortly before it closed for nearly a month's worth of renovations in mid-April.
"My dad started the company, he's still very much involved, but this is my project," she said. "I wanted to broaden our demographic."
The redesign carried over to the menu, which Stefani changed to include lower-priced options and incorporate sliced meats from the new salumeria station, both part of an effort to attract a lunchtime crowd to the steakhouse.
"We used to be a place you'd go for special occasions," Stefani said. "Now this will be a go-to place every day of the week."
Changes to Executive Chef Christian Fantoni's menu include "a redone lunch, dinner, dessert and drink menu," Stefani said.
The lunch menu has "more salads, sandwiches, and a half-and-half soup and sandwich combo I love," she said. "We have new dinner appetizers, lots from the salumeria bar, cheeses, pate and bruschetta."
House specials will cost around $20, Stefani said. The menu is now split into two halves — cheaper options and smaller portions on the left side, and steakhouse classics like Australian lobster tail and Kansas City strip steak on the right.
"There's something for everyone," she said.
Local design house Stanton Interior Concepts oversaw the redesign, Stefani said. The Stefani Restaurant group operates 11 eateries in the Chicago area — including Tavern on Rush, Riva at Navy Pier and Tuscany on Taylor and elsewhere.
Before Phil Stefani took over 437 Rush in 2000, the location had been home to Riccardo's, a well-known journalist watering hole frequented by scribes including Studs Terkel and late columnists Mike Royko and Roger Ebert, among others.
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