The restaurant business is in Mark Giannini’s blood.
Giannini, the owner and chef of Pasta D’Arte in Norwood Park, learned the family business at an early age. His brother is also in the restaurant business.
Born in 1979, he moved with his family to Norridge in 1980. A1997 Ridgewood High School graduate, Giannini still calls Norridge his home with his wife, Agnes, daughter Angelina, and another child due in December: His brother, John, owns Nonna Silvia in
Giannini said he got his start at 8 years old. ln order to keep him out of trouble, his mother Angela, used to take him to work with her at his uncle Tony Barbanente’s restaurant, Via Veneto. “They thought it was kind of funny,” he said. “I’m a little kid working. But they told me what to do and I caught on pretty quick.
They started me drying silverware, drying the spots off the glasses and after that it was making salads, garnishes, doing any kitchen prep work."
Giannini said one of his favorite tasks was chopping garlic. “Nobody wants to chop garlic," he said. "It’s so strong. I love to chop it because I wanted to make it as minced as possible with the knife, so I was just the best one to do the job.”
He said he’d chop parsley tomatoes and mushrooms as well.
“I was pretty much doing all the preparation and I loved to do it as a kid,” Giannini said. “It’s what I really loved to do."
Giannini graduated to line cook and eventually ran the cooking line. At 16, he bussed tables, managed the floor and greeted patrons as a host.
Celebrating the restaurants eight-year anniversary Oct. 1, Giannini said the atmosphere is what he loves most about Pasta DArte. '
"We’re not really upscale, but we are trendy” he said. “People feel very comfortable. I spend so much time here at this restaurant that I had to portray some comfortable atmosphere kind of like you were stepping into my home.
That along with my staff, who’s been with me for so long,”
Giannini said his staff has been with him since Pasta D’Arte’s opening.
“I think that Pasta D’Arte is a well-oiled machine,” he said. “Because I know that everybody knows what I’m working for and they believe in me and they believe in the restaurant and we believe all in the cause together.That’s what makes us, I think, a restaurant that would be one to remember, A true destination.”
Giannini said he has customers traveling from all over: Park Ridge, Norridge, Niles, Edgebrook and Lincolnwood, as well as local patrons.
Like other businesses, Giannini said his restaurant was affected by the economic downturn.
"I believe that my restaurant peaked in 2001” he said. ‘Around the demographic area, we had a lot of mortgage companies that all went out of business, A lot of banks that used to order from me and no longer do and I think that is due to the economic recession."
Giannini said the restaurant relied heavily on those companies for its lunch business.
“Since then, my lunch business has declined (about) 80 percent,” he said. “We used to get these nice, big orders from mortgage companies and banks and we don’t get them anymore - that’s the bottom line. It’s nothing I've done, I know that. I’m behind that kitchen all the time.”
Giannini said his dinner business has suffered as well.
“All of our regulars that we’ve had throughout the years still re- turn to us,” he said. “A lot of the regulars that we did see on a consistent basis that we haven’t seen in a while actually start seeing coming back.”
He said he pretty much hears the same response from those customers. Because of a loss of a job, they had to eliminate going out to dinner. `
“Has it affected us? It has ,” Giannini said.
He said 2008 was a terrible year; but 2009 was ‘a little bit better.
“And I think 2010 is going to be better than 2009,” he said.
Pasta D’Arte is at 6311 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. Go to www.pastadarte.com.