749 N Clark St,
Chicago, IL 60610
Mon-Fri: 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Sat & Sun: 11:00am – 11:00pm
For Joseph Frasca and Chef Steve Chiappetti, Italian dining signifies love shared and life lessons learned around the family table, with food as the unifying vehicle. Beginning this May, the duo invites diners everywhere to create their own notion of the beloved family table at J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar (749 N. Clark St.), a casual, River North restaurant reviving the “mom and pop” spirit alongside a menu of rustic Italian cuisine. The conception of the name, J. Rocco, was a collaboration of Frasca’s family – namely his wife Colleen, son Joey and daughter Megan – to honor their Italian family. The restaurant’s name in its entirety pays homage to the partners’ Calabrian heritage, and all of the relatives who have enriched their lives over countless, memorable meals.
J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar features a menu of regional signatures by Chef Chiappetti – who has earned national recognition at his previous, acclaimed Chicago restaurants Rhapsody, Mango, Viand and Costa d’Oro. His experience and dynamic cooking style are now brought to life on what he describes as an “honest Italian” menu – where pure and seasonal ingredients star in a showcase of genuine, bold flavor.
Chef Chiappetti’s menu includes nearly ten house made pastas, pizzas, enticing entrées such as sturgeon, fish stew and pork sirloin, hearty and healthy soups, several meatball preparations, and creative desserts. Finely sourced meats and seafood and an array of vegetables, cheeses, legumes and fruits are complemented by robust Italian wines and fine cocktails. A true farm-to-table experience stems from Chef Chiappetti’s family background of Chiappetti Meats, with multiple generations of butchers on both parents’ sides, plus an expertly installed hydroponic garden where he will hand-pick lettuces, herbs and other items for the freshest flavor possible.
A well-edited, affordable Italian wine list features approximately 30 bottles and 15 selections by the glass. Signature Grappas, fresh herb-infused martinis and Italian microbrews round out the beverage program. Diners can expect to enjoy a satisfying meal for $28–$38 per person.
“In returning to Chicago’s restaurant community, it was important to me and Joe that we create a comfortable environment where diners can enjoy an easy, casual, and delicious meal,” said Chef Chiappetti. “Italian cuisine lends itself perfectly to that idea – and also allows us to celebrate our heritage and recipes that have lived in our families for generations.”
J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar’s two-level space in River North includes an 80-seat dining room on the first floor that evokes a familial experience, with bar seating for 12, dark wood dining tables, exposed brick, and rich, warming browns. A custom-built, family-style table for 12 sits at one end of the room, providing an intimate opportunity for a traditional family dining experience. The construction of the Italian table mimics the techniques used for hundreds of years by old world craftsmen in Italy, and was created from reclaimed wood at least 350 years old. The vibrant, hydroponic garden adds lush greenery to the space, whose living wall produces micro-greens, lettuces and herbs used year-round.
The restaurant’s second floor includes an extended bar area that will open later this spring. Ideal for imbibing, light bites and socializing, the second floor is also available for private functions. A charming, street-side patio will open during the summer, and Chef Chiappetti will also introduce lunch and brunch service in the weeks ahead.
J. Rocco Italian Table is open seven days a week, Sunday through Thursday from 5:00pm to 10:00pm and Friday and Saturday from 5:00pm to 1:00am. Valet parking is available during all hours of operation.
ABOUT THE CHEF
A native of Chicago’s south side, Chef Steve Chiappetti definitely has cooking in his blood. His family name is behind Chicago’s oldest slaughter and packinghouse, Chiappetti Lamb and Veal, which after 51 years of business is the last remaining slaughterhouse in the Chicago Stockyards.
Born of European parents – his father Italian, his mother French – Chiappetti grew up in a household obsessed with food. Early on he absorbed a wealth of old world culinary values; the best of which Chiappetti believes is the greatness of simple food that satisfies the soul. He also learned that ““”a warm atmosphere, friendship and conviviality are just as important as the rest of your ingredients.”
Firmly grounded from childhood in the fundamentals of southern European fare, especially that of Provence, Chiappetti forged his own unique style of cooking with a mixture of formal training and hands-on experience. After attending the Culinary School at Kendall College, he worked under a series of impressive mentors, among them Chef Fernand Gutierrez at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago’s The Dining Room and Chef Paul Bartolotta at Spiaggia. Chiappetti’s talent allowed for the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the Bocuse d’Or, one of Europe’s most prestigious food competitions.
In 1997, he was nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef Award, in addition to being named Wine Spectator’s Rising Star Chef. Also to his credit, Chiappetti served on the Board of Trustees for Kendall College and the Board of Directors for the American Institute of Wine & Food, founded by Julia Child. Despite his busy schedule, Chiappetti was also able to cook for the prestigious Cunard Liner, Queen Elizabeth 2 and served as a member of the Cunard Club.
As a chef and entrepreneur, Chiappetti went on to blaze his own trail, opening a string of successful, highly acclaimed restaurants. Mango, an American bistro, garnered three stars from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine and Chicago Sun-Times, rocketing Chiappetti to the center of Chicago’s culinary scene. Chiappetti also received national acclaim from The New York Times, USA Today and Food & Wine.
Next, Chiappetti opened Grapes, a three-star Mediterranean café and funky, neighborhood place with a colorful dining room. Chiappetti later joined forces with the Chicago Symphony to open Rhapsody, a three-star contemporary American bistro. Chiappetti then consulted on the Freehling Room, the private donor’s club at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Il. Before moving on to Café le Coq, a French bistro in Oak Park, IL. Chiappetti and his wife, Leslie, also opened the Banana Bakery and the Monkey Fudge Factory in Westchester, IL. Chiappetti went on the develop a line of gourmet products, Edible World, including custom spice blends for the home cook and a selection of sweet temptations.
A “Today Show” regular and a repeat Disney Food & Wine Festival chef, Chiappetti says the essence of good cooking always has simplicity at its center. “To me, any food worth eating is in some way comfort food!” he says.
Since Viand, Chiappetti has gone on to a whirlwind journey throughout Europe to adapt new methods and flavors to his cooking arsenal. There, he gained proficiency in sous vide cooking, imparting seasoning and spice to a careful and precise technique.
Today, Chiappetti is utilizing his talent and knowledge through the development of a fresh farm approach at Chicago’s J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar.