"He was known for his spaghetti sauce and his thick tenderloins," she recalls. At her own restaurant, Toni will serve traditional Southern Italian dishes as well as Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches and homemade cannoli. And the staff will include her son, Ross Diviac. "I'm going to teach him everything my father taught me," she says.
In Westport, young restaurateurs Colby and Megan Garrelts hope to have Bluestem open at 900 Westport Road by the end of January. Yes, that's the long-vacant corner site of the former New World Bistro, which opened in 1999, about the same time Colby Garrelts left his job as sous chef for the now-defunct Stolen Grill down the street. He departed for Chicago, where he was hired as senior sous chef at Rick Tramonto's Tru Restaurant. While he was working there, he fell in love with Megan, the restaurant's sweet young pastry chef.
The cooking couple moved to Las Vegas and took jobs at Aureole, then spent a year working in restaurants in Los Angeles.
"But we always planned to come back to the Midwest," Colby says. "I always liked Westport and felt it would be a good place for the kind of restaurant we wanted to open."
At the forty-seat Bluestem, named for a Midwestern native prairie grass, Colby says he'll serve "progressive American" cuisine "with a menu featuring eight appetizers, eight entrées and at least that many desserts created by Megan."
The couple has been installing a new bar and a new hardwood floor in the space while they work on getting a liquor license. If their restaurant isn't open by January 31, the Garrelts promise that they'll be serving on Valentine's Day, one of the busiest restaurant days of the new year.
"We're not going to get rich doing this," Colby says, "but it's a good place to start."