Originally printed in the June 2018 issue of Produce Business.
Neighborhood eatery brings city-worthy Italian food to ‘burbs’
Mino’s Italian brings together family, friends and neighbors for authentic, high-quality Italian cuisine to Winnetka in the Chicago suburbs. The creative minds behind Mino’s have transformed an old gas station/garage into a hip trattoria offering the freshest Italian fare.
Eric Fosse, a managing partner of Mino’s, explains the dearth of higher-quality, innovative restaurants in the area motivated them to open the operation. “We are about 20 miles north of Chicago, and there aren’t a lot of good options,” he says. “Italian is popular and flexible cuisine, and it’s easy to embrace new food trends and requirements within it. It’s also wonderful for kids and adults, so it fits well into our family demographic.”
Fosse opened the 5,000 square-foot restaurant with his wife, Audrey, and partners Michael Finnerty and Glenn Deutsch. With only seven months under its belt, the restaurant is flourishing. “We’re doing roughly $3 million to $4 million now and growing,” says Fosse. “We’ve been very busy, and we recently launched a carryout store offering our full menu.”
A Key Ingredient
Produce is essential to Mino’s cuisine. “Italian food and culture has eaten fresh produce for centuries,” says Fosse. “Their cuisine is based on being able to source the best produce all the time.”
There’s a focus on freshness and quality for all produce Mino’s sources. “If we have something on the menu, it’s quality,” he says. “If it’s not good quality, we won’t have it on the menu.”
The restaurant spends approximately $5,000 per week on produce, sourcing through several distributors. “Get Fresh Produce in Bartlett, IL, and Greco & Sons in Bartlett, IL, are our two main distributors,” says Fosse. “They pull produce from the Chicago International Produce Market.”
Though Mino’s buys local during Chicago’s summer season, Fosse notes freshness and availability trumps everything. “We look for the best produce available at the time regardless of where it comes from,” he says. “We also use organic when we can, but we measure quality and freshness first. Our focus is on freshness and quality and then location.”
Fosse notes almost the entire menu has a produce component in it. “We use produce in everything, whether it be microbasil, leeks, ramps, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, brocollini or cauliflower,” he says. “Produce is elemental to the dish and adds depth of flavor whether in stocks or presentations.”
Under the tutelage of Chef John Korycki, who started his career at Spiaggia in Chicago, the menu showcases fresh fruits and vegetables. In antipasti, diners find bruschetta with a Melanzane of roasted eggplant and red pepper, and Ceci consisting of chickpea, roasted garlic and rosemary. The Fritto Misto features crispy calamari and shrimp, zucchini and carrots.
Under the Primi offerings, the Garganelli marries Cremini, Shiitake, and Chanterelle mushroom in a ragu with Parmigiano for a rich flavor and texture. In Secondi, grilled salmon is paired with sautéed escarole and spinach, tomatoes, capers, and oregano. The Pollo Al Mattone roasted chicken features broccolini and a rosemary lemon gremolata. The menu bursts with side and salad options featuring a host of vegetables, including cauliflower, roasted brocollini, spinach, arugula, kale, frisée and Bosc pears.
The kitchen “use micro greens in salads and in all our soups,” Fosse says. “And we use exotic mushrooms on the pizza.”
Mino’s runs three to four specials weekly and rolls over one-third of the menu every three months to account for seasonal changes.
985 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, IL
Tues-Thurs 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Fri-Sat 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
Sun 5 p.m.- 9 p.m.