"I'm a restaurant guy and a realist that has been doing this for 35 years. We did not do enough business to sustain the operation," said Marty Fosse, co-owner of Azzurra EnoTavola, which he opened in October 2013 with Ron DiNella, a former chief financial officer of Morton's Steakhouse.
A note on the door says that the restaurant, at 1467 N. Milwaukee Ave., which closed on New Year's Eve, is "Infinitely grateful for the support from neighbors and regulars."
Alisa Hauser says other neighborhood locations are seeing a decrease in business:
It was a sentiment shared by the restaurant's general manager, Leah Allen.
"I loved working in Wicker Park. I feel like it was a really great experience and I am bummed it's over with. Our neighbors are all so cool. We were grateful for the support of the neighborhood and did our best," Allen said.
Fosse said all but one of Azzurra EnoTavola's 15 workers, including Allen, have found jobs at his other three restaurants: Umbra, Anteprima and Acre in Andersonville.
Prior to Azzurra EnoTavola, the storefront on Milwaukee Avenue, about one block south of Wicker Park's busy Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection, had been home to Gunner's Pub, which also shuttered after a short time.
When asked about how there are so many new restaurants in Wicker Park — though many of them are not as crowded even during weekends as one might expect — Fosse said he believed the neighborhood was "very vibrant and looks good on paper" to potential renters.
"On paper, it's absolutely terrific. Outside of Michigan Avenue, I heard Wicker Park is one of the highest rent places in the city for rent by square foot, so I would have to agree. There are places that seem to be bulletproof like Piece, Big Star and Dove's that are busy all the time and other places that are not," Fosse said.
Fosse said Azzurra EnoTavola was a unique situation compared to other restaurants he has been part of that closed because he feels he and his staff did everything right.
"We had a great menu and a great price point, the staff was hospitable and knowledgeable. It was solid on all levels. We tried a bit of everything. It's disheartening when don't attract the audience that you think you would," Fosse said.
Late Monday, DiNella confirmed that he sold the lease to another business that will be taking over the spot as early as this month to start construction on a new concept.
DiNella declined to comment on who would be taking over the storefront.
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