To Mariano and Theresa Scandurra, their restaurant is simply a place where people can come to relax and enjoy made-from-scratch Italian cuisine.
Open less than a year, La Trattoria Italian Restaurant (9541 Ackman Rd., Lake In the Hills) already has a following. “The comment I get is they feel like they’re in our house,” Theresa said of her customers. “Like we’re hosting them.’”
In Italy, she said, La Trattoria translates into the local place where everyone goes. “A husband and wife might own it and it’s where you get all the authentic food,’’ she said. “That’s how we wanted to portray ourselves. I want it to be really comfortable here.’’
The restaurant, located just off Randall Road at Ackman and Lakewood roads, has two separate dining areas — a casual room with a large bar and plenty of table seating, and a room with more formal seating. Even the music in the two areas is different with contemporary music in the lounge and Italian music in the dining area. “We’ve got a following here in only seven months,’’ said Mariano, who stressed that his guests know they will never feel rushed.
“We’re not trying to turn the tables here. If they’re sitting there enjoying themselves just talking we leave them be.’’
The Perfect Spot
When the former bakery, located just down the street from their home, vacated, the Scandurras knew it was the perfect opportunity to open a restaurant and be close enough to be there for their three children. With his father an architect and his mother an interior designer, designing and rehabbing the building’s interior came naturally to Mariano.
Together with Theresa, the couple did all of the labor themselves. “We couldn’t afford to hire contractors so we learned to use the tools,’’ Mariano said. “I laid every single piece of floor here.’’
They turned colorful Italian tiles they had laying around their house for years into one-of-a-kind tabletops for the lounge, matching the design in the tin ceiling that hangs above the bar with the tile design.
The chairs in the dining area were once in a Skokie restaurant owned by Mariano’s grandfather. And black-and-white photos that belonged to Mariano’s father of turn-of-the century Naples hang on the walls. “That’s one of my favorite things in the restaurant,’’ Theresa said of the photographs.
Instead of going with a formal linen tablecloth in the dining area, the couple instead used embossed caramel-colored Ostrich leather to cover tables with decorative, metal-studded bands binding the leather to the tables.
A Taste of Naples
Moving from Naples, Italy in 1973, Mariano has been in the restaurant business his entire life, with a former family restaurant — La Rosa — in Skokie, one in West Dundee, another in Bloomingdale and others. His first restaurant was in New Orleans. Mariano uses family recipes that he’s changed — just a little — he said. And with the help of one assistant, he does all of the cooking at La Trattoria.
“I’m the chef,’’ he said. “When I cook for customers I cook like I’m doing it for myself.’’
Mariano brings the dishes he loved in Naples to his customers in Lake in the Hills by paying attention to every ingredient to make sure it not only tastes authentic, but is healthy — using only olive oil and very little salt.
And once a week, he travels to Chicago to handpick every ingredient for every dish.
“I shop myself — then I get to be choosey,’’ Mariano said. “I know exactly what I need for a week. I don’t store anything — I get just enough for one week.’’
Nothing is prepared ahead of time, he said, with every customer getting a made-to-order dinner. His meals are definitely influenced by Naples cuisine, he said. “In Naples where I come from, everything is very light,’’ he said. “Our sauces are very light.’’
And he never adds sugar to the sauce, he said. “If you’re using sugar you’re using bad tomatoes,’’ Mariano said.
His Linguini Pescatore is a customer favorite, with muscles, clams, shrimp and calamari in a red sauce. “Everything I do, I really put my all into it,” he said. “When I create a dish, I really think about it then I dream about it,’’ he added, noting that people also love his veal.
A Family Affair
Believing in a family run restaurant, the Scandurra’s three children all do their part to help, Mariano said. Their son Cody buses tables and washes dishes while daughters Gabriella and Isabella wash dishes and help make salads.
The restaurant is closed Sunday and open Monday through Thursday from 4:30 p.m. until 9 or 10 p.m., with later hours on Friday and Saturday, depending on the night’s crowd, Mariano said. “We don’t turn anybody away,’’ he said of seating customers who walk in later.
It’s all part of making their guests feel like they’re being entertained in a friend’s home. “Our goal is for our customers to all be repeat customers,’’ Theresa said.
>> For more, call 847-669-9840 or visit www.latrattoriarest.com.