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Moderno to Reopen as More Casual Restaurant

The Italian restaurant led by John des Rosiers that opened in April will close on Dec. 22 and serve reasonably priced American cuisine when it reopens in early January.

Moderno, the modern Italian restaurant that opened in Renaissance Place in April, will close on Dec. 22 and reopen in January as a more casual restaurant serving American cuisine.

The chef-driven restaurant led by John des Rosiers received across the board critical acclaim earlier this year, getting rave reviews from Time Out Chicago, Chicago MagazineThe Sun-Times and here on Patch.

In his glowing review of Moderno, however, Patch columnist Ed Brill predicted what may have been an insurmountable obstacle for the restaurant: its limitations on the guests control over their order.

"The success or failure of [Moderno] will depend on whether or not Highland Park diners will accept a place without a Caesar salad or fried calamari, or if they are willing to eat the dishes as the kitchen envisions them," Brill wrote.

In a press release sent out Thursday afternoon, Renaissance Place General Manager Christiane Fischer said that the transition comes as a response to customers.

"Moderno was a truly great restaurant, but the owners listened to their customers and decided to change the concept to give them what they want, which is a more family focused, affordable dining experience," Fischer said.

The new restaurant, called Royce, will be have a 1930s Art Deco influence and will use fresh, locally grown organic and sustainable ingredients, according to the release. Des Rosiers and Executive Chef Phil Rubino are calling it a chef-driven casual restaurant, with a reasonably priced menu that will include signature and build-your own burgers and a children's menu.

"Residents are looking for a more approachable, casual experience," Business and Economic Development Commissioner Alyssa Knobel said. "They wanted to address those wants and needs, and be more family friendly."

Royce will also offer craft beers, small production wines and premium whiskeys and vodkas, according to the release.

This isn't the first time a restaurant has recreated itself to survive in Highland Park.  closed last year and reopened as Nieto's, a more casual restaurant. And before Bobby Dubin closed Stashs' doors for good, he tried to turn his hot dog place into a more upscale bistro.

Des Rosiers and Fischer were unavailable for comment, but Bluegrass owner Jim Lederer told Patch he thinks it's necessary for any business owner to listen to your customers and have a willingness to change in order to survive. His restaurant has been open since 2004.

"It's change or be changed in today's business environment," Lederer said. "You can't be complacent."

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John P December 31, 2012 at 07:17 AM
Theres only a few good restaurants left in HP. Abigails, Benjamin. Atleast worth mentioning anyway.
Dave Schabes January 12, 2013 at 02:32 AM
Funny, if one were to read Mr. Greenberg's comment out of context, one might think he were reading the comment of a petulant 6-year-old: "I'm hungry, I have something that looks tasty, I want it a certain way - bring it that way or you don't get my money." Also undermining the value of his comment as a contribution to the conversation is the illiterate use of "could care less." Puh-leeze, don't waste our time. Mommy will prepare your meals exactly as you prefer them, Precious.
David Greenberg January 12, 2013 at 05:34 AM
Well the difference between an adult and a 6-yr old is that a 6-yr old throws a tantrum and the adult has to remove the tantrum-thrower from the restaurant. But some adults choose to own/operate restaurants to make their fare available to other individuals. If those individuals don't like what's being served, they're not going to exchange money with the restaurant owner, and if enough people don't fork over the 'dough' (yeah, pun intended), then the restaurant will go out of business. Nothing childish about that - give the public what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and they'll give you money in exchange so you can keep providing what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. Fail do do so at the peril of your business - and if that's harsh, that's unfortunate, but that's life.
Kate February 10, 2013 at 03:09 AM
Why can't a high end restaurant succeed in HP? Do people there just want to dine on boring low end fare
David Greenberg February 10, 2013 at 03:43 AM
I'd hazard a guess that it's location, location, location. All restaurants need to attract repeat customers, and have a lot of them streaming in day-after-day in order to survive. If you want to price yourself higher in the marketplace than the average fare, you need to be able to attract a continuous stream of customers willing and able to pay for your offerings. You need to be easy to get to, have great parking, and other offerings that your customers may desire to frequent either before or after the meal. Take away any of those points, and it's harder to attract and retain customers. Let's review HP: * Downtown/Uptown (whatever you call it): Kinda of a pain to get to from the highway. If you get off 41 at Central - there's 5 stoplights before you get to the morass of traffic downtown if you go down Central with its 25MPH speed zone. Taking the "Bypass" up Deerfield Road/Laurel, there's 3 lights, but you still have to fool around with the right-side beatout drivers at Laurel/Green Bay, and then head into the downtown area. * Parking: It's not too horrible, but when someone is waiting for someone else to pull out of a space, traffic backs up. Parking in the underground garages is a great deal, but who really wants to walk to a high-end restaurant? Often patrons of such fare valet it. * Other: Ummm, some shops. No real theater, except maybe Ravinia, and then that's a whole different travel mess to contend with. Lots to overcome.

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