McHENRY – A picture of Rose Savanelli hangs behind the counter at her son’s new restaurant.
The newly opened Italian restaurant at 4113 Shamrock Lane – Cucina Rosa Italian Restaurant – is named after her and uses the recipes she taught her son, Salvatore Savanelli, in her massive Oak Park kitchen with three stoves, three refrigerators and more than 40 cabinets.
“I remember fond memories of my mother [from when I was] growing up as a child, when I was a young boy – 8, 9 years old – growing up in the kitchen, doing stuff with my mother, making cavatellis, homemade gnocchis, Christmas stuff, sweets,” he said. “Those are the memories that make me happy of my mother.”
The recipes served at Cucina Rosa go back five generations in Savanelli’s family. His parents, Rose and Frank, moved to Oak Park from Naples, Italy, in 1951. They died in 2001 four months apart.
Making those recipes the way he remembers them with the best ingredients he can find is Savanelli’s mission at his new restaurant, which he and his wife, Mary Jo, opened June 10.
“I don’t skimp when it comes to food,” he said. “Everybody tries to skimp because it’s a business. I don’t do that. I do it just like my mother used to do it when I was a kid. I don’t want to change the recipe. It’s a recipe that’s been going on for a hundred years. I’m not going to change it for a few dollars.”
Savanelli can do that now that he is his own boss.
The Arlington Heights couple closed their last restaurant, Abondanza Italian Café in Palatine, after about six or seven years when the landlord died and the property was sold. They decided against buying it since the area had changed quite a bit.
After that, Savanelli ran Luigi’s in Chicago, which he leased from an uncle, and worked as a chef in several restaurants.
Cucina Rosa is larger than Abondanza Italian Cafe, which had only 13 tables. The new place also has an expanded menu – not strictly Italian cuisine – with a note on that back that if they have the ingredients and they know how to make it, they’ll cook anything the customer wants.
All their sauces are made in house as well as desserts like tiramisu. Many of the pastas also are made from scratch, including the gnocchi, tortellini, ravioli and cappellacci.
It’s “casual fine taste,” Savanelli said, adding that the restaurant doesn’t have a dress code and is family friendly.
Before Cucina Rosa’s opened, the restaurant in Liberty Square Mall at the corner of Route 31 and Shamrock Lane was A Touch of Italy, another Italian place that closed when the owner retired.
The Savanellis gutted the space and completely renovated it before opening in June.
“I’’m running the restaurant like my mother ran her house,” he said. “I want people to come here and think this is not just a restaurant; this is where you can have friends, family, good food, good wine, good music, everything at one time.”
About Cucina Rosa Italian Restaurant
Located: 4113 Shamrock Lane in McHenry
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday