Roxy's American Grill, a staple of the River North restaurant scene since 2012, will close this Saturday and reconcept in the next few weeks as L'Assurdità, an Italian restaurant. Owners Gus Andropolous and Stanley Kim said that business had been declining for some months. Customers increasingly entered the restaurant "only to be baffled by offerings such as steak and lobster. We spent more time explaining the absence of braciole and strozzapreti than introducing people to the cuisine of North America," explained Kim.
Executive chef Ryan O'Douls, who oversees all three of the group's restaurants, which also include Il Copione (formerly Seoul Asylum) and Impostore (formerly Zeus Taberna), said that he was really excited to be able to "show Chicagoans a side of Italian cuisine they hadn't been able to see within a four-block radius at more than a handful of spots."
O'Douls was not available when I visited the kitchen where recipe testing was well under way. But line cook Jesus Martinez said, "We are very excited to be able to cook food that puts us back in touch with our roots. My aunt makes pasta at Spiaggia, and three of my cousins work at Eataly. This food is really like coming home to me."
Martinez showed me an item he hopes will be on the final menu—Nonna's Meatballs. "This recipe has been in my family for generations. Well, technically not generations, but my grandmother works at Davanti on Taylor Street." He then excused himself to make chilaquiles for staff meal.
Owner Kim said, "We tried to make it with a more radical concept, but I just don't think this was the space for it. The people of Chicago like their Italian. Jesus God, do they like Italian food. Put an 'e' at the end of a bowl of carbs and you can sell the shit out of it and keep your food costs under 30 percent. Wait a minute. I didn't say that. I meant to say, Italian food has all the simple, rustic virtues of fresh, local cuisine that people identify with these days and it's a natural fit for our group to honor those traditions and our own heritage. I mean, Koreans eat a lot of pasta too. Hey, we're practically paisan. You know, like DeNiro says to that guy in Godfather II. We did a lot of research for this concept like that. Can you just leave me alone now?"
In other restaurant news, Infelice's, a 73-year-old Italian bakery on Grand, has closed to become a bodega specializing in phone cards.