Phil Ste­fani re­opens Tus­cany on Tay­lor but warns: We won’t make it if this lasts into spring

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - MICHAEL SNEED msneed@sun­times.com | @sneedlings

Mamma mia!

One plate at a time.

Ital­ian food, please.

Chicago’s Lit­tle Italy, once the mecca of all food Ital­ian in the lively en­vi­rons of Tay­lor Street, has been hit hard by the pan­demic.

Al­though yummy stel­lars like Al’s Beef, Mario’s Ital­ian Lemon­ade and Pom­pei are still open for busi­ness, only one of the area’s full-ser­vice Ital­ian eater­ies — Phil Ste­fani’s Tus­cany on Tay­lor — is cur­rently open for busi­ness.

(Mia Francesca and Da­vanti Enoteca have closed. Alex Dana’s leg­endary Rose­bud lo­ca­tion on Tay­lor, a celeb han­gout known world­wide, is closed for now, al­though Dana tells Sneed he hopes to re­open soon. We’re wait­ing and sali­vat­ing.)

“I know we are tak­ing a chance,” said Ste­fani, who threw open the doors Thurs­day night of his 30-year-old Tus­cany restau­rant, 1014 W. Tay­lor

St. The restau­rant has been a han­gout of such no­ta­bles as Jerry Reins­dorf, Bill Clin­ton, Michael Jor­dan and Joe Bi­den, who is also a huge Rose­bud fan.

“COVID shut us down on March 17, and we’ve been closed ever since,” he said.

“The staff has been beg­ging us to re­open as well as loyal cus­tomers, so we de­cided to try it.”

Ste­fani, who op­er­ated a travel busi­ness when he opened his first eatery, Ste­fani’s on Fullerton Av­enue, in 1980 — re­plete with a singing waiter who drew a huge fan base — had 16 op­er­a­tional res­tau­rants un­til coron­avirus pum­meled the restau­rant busi­ness na­tion­wide.

His River North Bar Cargo eatery — now run by his daugh­ter, Gina — was looted dur­ing an early demon­stra­tion protest­ing the mer­ci­less killing of Ge­orge Floyd by a po­lice of­fi­cer in Min­neapo­lis. It has since re­opened.

Now only nine of his 16 res­tau­rants are open, in­clud­ing Ste­fani Prime in Lin­col­nwood, which is run by his son, An­thony.

“It’s re­ally im­pos­si­ble to op­er­ate at this level with lim­ited seat­ing,” he said.

“We won’t sur­vive un­til next spring if COVID lasts at this level. When we say over 60% of res­tau­rants might fail, it’s not con­ver­sa­tion. It’s the truth.”

But even though “open­ing Tus­cany might not be the right busi­ness de­ci­sion now ... we are go­ing to try.”

Trump ’em . . .

Sis­ter Jean Kenny, the sports prog­nos­ti­ca­tor who rarely gets it wrong, re­cently called Sneed from In­di­ana with a new pre­dic­tion.

Only it’s within the realm of pol­i­tics this time.

Quoth Sis­ter Jean: “I just read your col­umn on coach Mike Ditka’s en­dorse­ment of [Pres­i­dent Don­ald] Trump’s re­elec­tion via Ditka’s in­ter­view with Don­ald Trump Jr. “So here it is,” she trum­peted.

“Joe Bi­den wins by a land­slide!” she said. “Take that to the bank!”

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Tus­cany on Tay­lor re­opened last week.

Sis­ter Jean Kenny

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