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Mattone Restaurant and Bar | Peek Inside a La Grange Park Italian Fave

Mattone Restaurant and Bar Debuts New Menu and Design

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Franco Francese , co-owner of Mattone Restaurant and Bar in La Grange Park Il for a quick chat about the new menu additions and the beautiful renovation that was recently completed at the Italian restaurant.  Over a dish of Italian Poutine, I asked Franco what his last meal would be, what direction the menu is going in and his favorite food memory.

Mattone Restaurant and Bar Poutine
Italian Poutine - Garlic Fries topped with Bolognese and Cheese

We sat near the brick wood-fired oven that is the heart of the restaurant and I got to watch his team create one of Mattone’s signature sandwiches The Benny , an Italian sandwich with ham, salami, prosciutto and mozzarella inside of a fresh baked Italian roll that literally gets baked in the wood-fired oven after you order the sandwich, using their in-house dough made from scratch.

As the smell of bread filled the air, I watched as locals entered the restaurant while Franco and his staffed greeted everyone warmly. The location has a long family history, as it was originally owned by his father, Domenico Francese, who owned a restaurant named D’s Little Italy for many years before Franco and his brother Vito opened Mattone Restaurant and Bar eight years ago. They now use the knowledge they learned from their father to bring the best cuisine possible to the community.

Scoop: There is a patio in the works for the end of the summer where guests will be able to enjoy wine, cocktails, and food while taking in the weather.

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Meet The Owner - Franco Francese

Where did you grow up?I was born in Oak Park, but grew up in Westchester, Il.

What’s your favorite meal of the day? My favorite meal of the day is dinner. Dinner when I grew up was always associated with a big family meal. We could all sit down and talk about things going on in our lives.

What do you usually have during this meal?I try to follow the mantra of protein, vegetable, and carb. A balanced diet is essential to a healthy lifestyle.

What was it like growing up in a restaurant family?When my father started his business, he was working all the time. It’s a tireless sacrifice, and we were not immune to it. I started washing dishes when I was 11 years old and there were some tough times, too.

What’s your personal motto? You can be paralyzed by your own fears. If you liberate yourself from your own fears, you can achieve anything you put your mind too.

What is your favorite food memory?My favorite food memory is, without a doubt, a family trip that we took to Walt Disney World in Florida. Watching my father, who was a great chef, order a meal in a restaurant was fascinating. I recall going to an Italian restaurant there and I was probably 9-10 years old. My father orders a soup on the menu called Zuppa Di Pesce. Which literally translates into Soup of Fish. Well, the soup arrived and there was no fish in the soup – just broth that smelled “fishy”. My father said to the waiter, “Do you know what Zuppa Di Pesce means?” The waiter said, “No” and my father replied, “It means soup of fish but there is no fish in this soup. Can you tell the chef that I would love a Zuppa Di Pesce that actually has fish…or else maybe you should call this dish ‘fish broth’”. I was crying laughing…

Franco Francese Headshot
Headshot Photo Courtesy of Mattone Restaurant

Who in the food world do you most admire?I’m a fan of Kevin Brown, CEO of Lettuce Entertain You. He has been with the company a long time and they have an amazing restaurant company. 

What do you like to eat when you’re at home?My wife and son are pretty picky eaters. My wife is a meat and potatoes kind of gal. She’s also very fit, so salad and vegetables need to be involved. A meal that we have a lot would be steak on the grill, vegetables, and fingerling potatoes with seasoning. 


What is going to be the next big thing in the food world, in your opinion?
Food is certainly evolving…the pre-made meals that we are seeing from companies like Blue Apron have been changing the way people think about food. Online and mobile ordering are certainly making waves in the world as well. If you are not taking orders through that channel, you are certainly behind the trend.

What would be your ‘Last Meal’meal?  à la Anthony Bourdain Great question! It should start with an appetizer I call Fritto Misto – think seafood platter of fried fish served with cocktail sauce. Then, a New York Strip, because it’s the tastiest cut around, in my opinion. A twice baked loaded potato should be involved, and sautéed spinach is my favorite side dish. My all-time favorite dessert is a cookie skillet sundae with gelato, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. Now put me to bed!

What direction are you and Vito taking the Mattone menu? Will there be more Fusion additions, like the Italian Poutine?The menu will continue to evolve with our clientele. We have a wonderful community of older and younger families. As their needs and wants change, so too will our menu. Expect new menu items every six months.

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Mattone is a family-owned restaurant deeply rooted in the community that is clearly committed to keeping their menu interesting while taking delicious risks.

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Address: 9 E 31st St, La Grange Park, IL 60526
 Phone: (708) 352-7588

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