Ask restaurateur Franco Francese about his favorite food-related memory, and his face lightens up at the thought of Sunday dinners of years past. It was a family affair, with everybody sitting down at the dining table and waiting their turn to get rigatoni. As with many Italian dishes, the secret lied in the sauce – and the Francese family recipe was a work of wonder, featuring cow’s neck bones simmered for hours at a low temperature so as to slowly develop their flavor. “Family matters,” Francese tells me with a pensive voice. “It’s what molds us and shapes us as people. And it’s nice to work with family.”
It is this spirit of family and familial love that Franco Francese is bringing to the Glenview Park Golf Club with his latest restaurant, Coarse Italian, which opens for dinner on June 17.
Francese is a veteran of the Chicagoland dining scene, having built his reputation as a restaurateur with Mattone Restaurant and Bar in La Grange Park, which he owns with his brother Vito.
The success of Mattone, which serves Italian dishes “with a modern twist,” inspired the Francese brothers to think of ways to expand into the Chicago burbs – and then the opportunity appeared at the Glenview Park Golf Club.
I visited the Club one cool weekend morning, and as I interviewed Francese, the clouds vanished and the sun prevailed, giving me the chance to fully explore the location. The perfectly manicured golf course was interspersed with islands of lush vegetation and clean walking pathways, and the setting promised an enjoyable experience for golfers and non-golfers alike.
This blends in nicely with Francese’s goal: to offer a dining experience that goes beyond addressing the needs of golf professionals, and serves the entire Glenview community, of which he is a proud member. Coarse Italian will offer lunch and dinner as well as breakfast selections during the golf season. Fun, outdoor events will take place during the summer and will feature food, drinks, and live music.
In addition to becoming a fresh Italian dining option for the Glenview community, Francese’s restaurant will also be available for banquets, luncheons, and other special events.
While Coarse Italian will exhibit the same quality ingredients and attention to detail as Mattone, it will have a brand new, never-before-seen menu created in collaboration with Executive Chef Tony DeMario, who previously worked at Girl and the Goat, Sepia and Acanto, amongst others.
The official opening date had just been postponed, and they were still making adjustments to the menu when I visited, but this was not a problem to Francese, who explained to me that “first impression matters, and we want to make sure it’s right.” The new menu, as outlined by Francese, reflected the family’s commitment to quality, seasonality and creativity, and featured dishes such as caprese salad with housemade mozzarella and grilled seasonal fruit, and panna cotta with fruit confit. Francese explained that Coarse Italian would get some of the vegetables and meat from Glenview favorite Historic Wagner Farm, in a first attempt to engage in a meaningful collaboration with the local producer community.
I left Coarse Italian impressed with its underpinning philosophy and its striving for excellence. Getting a new restaurant off the ground is never easy (especially in the super-competitive Chicagoland market), but Franco Francese’s experience and confidence made me cautiously optimistic. The restaurateur’s emphasis on family and community should be a good starting point for a restaurant which aims to position itself as a champion of meaningful and lasting relationships with its customers. According to Franco Francese, engaging with the community and welcoming everyone at the dining table is “the best way to be successful.” I for sure couldn’t agree more 🙂