LOGAN SQUARE — The owner of a new restaurant and wine bar in Logan Square arrived in Chicago exactly 40 years ago.
Rita Vargas grew up in Ecuador without electricity and has memories of fighting with her siblings for a single candle to finish homework once the sun went down.
Those memories of living in the shadows and by candle inspired both the name and the vibe of Vargas' restaurant — Penumbra.
"I grew up without electricity and for me I always grew up in penumbras," Vargas said, referring to what the dictionary says is a "partially shaded outer region of the shadow cast by an opaque object."
The restaurant, 3309 W. Fullerton Ave., is dark, intimate and romantic.
It is the first of its kind for Vargas, but not her first restaurant in the neighborhood.
She previously operated El Sabor Criollo near Armitage and Drake for about 10 years in the '80s and '90s and a second location under the same name at 3137 W. Logan Blvd., where Dunlay's on the Square is now, from 1994-1996.
"This is more her project, vision, dream," said Salvador Ramirez, Vargas' son.
The restaurant has been conducting a soft opening for about two weeks.
Vargas had spent the last 23 years teaching English as a second language at Malcolm X College before retiring last year.
Her son currently teaches math at Malcolm X.
"After teaching for so many years and not being in the the restaurant industry she decided to make a change, to go back," Ramirez said. "She loves the fast action."
Since coming to America, Vargas has worked as a social worker, a counselor, and owned a laundromat in addition to her old restaurants.
She is up for the challenge of the latest venture.
"Since I’ve come to this country everything I’ve wanted to do, I've done it," Vargas said.
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