After nearly 38 years of serving Italian classics to generations of patrons, many of who became regulars, the owners of Ristorante Agostino on the far Northwest Side have called it quits.
Announced Tuesday, August 1 in a posting on Facebook, owner Agostino Fiasche and his wife Anna Longobardi Fiasche made the tough decision during the Montclare restaurant’s annual month-long break in July, Longobardi Fiasche says.
“It was my husband’s decision but I went along with it,” Longobardi Fiasche says. She joked that at 63, she is five years younger than her husband and “probably had a couple more years in me,” but conceded that it was “time to go.”
She added that she will continue to supply her homemade tiramisu to her son Anthony’s Tempesta Market in West Town and Peanut Park in Little Italy, which her son and husband own with Dave Bonomi. Agostino Fiasche is currently at the family’s home in Calabria, Italy, and was unavailable to comment for this story.
Although Ristorante Agostino was located on the western border of the city in an area that has been described as Chicago’s other Little Italy, it brought in patrons from all points of the city and beyond.
“To me, Agostino’s belongs in that rarified air of what you would consider an iconic Chicago Italian restaurant,” says Jim Graziano, whose family owns J.P. Graziano Grocery Co, the 83-year-old West Loop deli. “They ruled Harlem Avenue.”
Agostino and Anna’s son Anthony Fiasche, who was two years old when his parents took out a $25,000 loan to open Ristorante Agostino and now runs Tempesta Market, says while it was a tough decision, it was something his father contemplated before a June 2021 electrical fire that would force them to rebuild the restaurant’s kitchen and kept it closed until September 2022.
“Before the fire, he thought of selling it or retiring,” Anthony Fiasche says. “The way they ran the restaurant, there aren’t many places still like it. They cooked to order, they never made any pre-made pasta and they were both still cooking. The wear and tear on your body, cooking on the line is definitely for the young.”
“It was hard for them because they love the place so much, but I feel like it was the right way to do it because they went out on top,” Anthony Fiasche adds. “No one could ever say they had a bad meal there.”
As for taking over the restaurant himself, the younger Fiasche, who has two Tempesta locations and is in the process of opening another deli and plant in Volo, says he could not dedicate the time that it would require and deserve.
“If my parents wanted me to try and take it over when I’m not there 100 percent of the time, things would slip. People would say ‘It used to be good.’ My parents have an awesome story, why tarnish that? I wouldn’t have done it justice.”
Anthony Fiasche says his parents bought the building at 2817 N. Harlem Avenue five years after opening and as of yet have not given much thought to what they will do with it. He added that it’s possible that he may open another Tempesta location there.
One longtime patron and cheerleader of the Ristorante Agostino has been Catherine De Orio, executive director of the Foundation for Culinary Arts and former host of WTTW’s Check, Please!, which ended in 2021 after 19 seasons.
“It’s such a great loss,” says De Orio, who grew up in neighboring Elmwood Park and celebrated many milestones with her family at the restaurant over the years.
“I understand it, they’ve been around forever and deserve to rest. I just wish there was some notice to celebrate one last time.”
Anthony Fiasche says that his father contemplated giving patrons a chance to say goodbye before closing for good, but decided it was easier to just announce that the restaurant already served its last meal.
“My dad is a super emotional person, he loved that place so much, he just couldn’t bring himself to have a farewell,” Anthony Fiasche says, adding that his parents may have a special dinner for a handful of regular patrons.
Graziano, who once supplied Agostino’s with food items when his company was exclusively a wholesaler and who patronized the restaurant for decades, echoes De Orio.
“I’m happy for Agostino. Selfishly it bothers me, but I’m ecstatic for him,” Graziano says. “He fought through the pandemic and came back from a massive fire and now goes out on this terms. And Anthony grew up in the restaurant and has taken what he learned to Tempesta, so the legacy goes on.”