Too many cooks in the kitchen doesn’t apply to Lake Forest’s new Authentico, a Mexican restaurant expected to open in mid- to late July.
Co-owners Javier Solario and Gina Troiani are excited about bringing their passion for homemade cooking to the public, but they admit, “there is not just one cook in the kitchen in our family.”
Visitors will be able to taste decades of refinement in authentic Mexican dishes from Solario’s mother, Maria Luisa Solario, who is also Troiani’s future mother-in-law.
Maria Luisa looks forward to sharing her secret family recipes when Authentico opens for dinner only in addition to daily catering events.
“From an early age I watched Saturday preparations for the big Sunday family dinners in Mexico,” Maria Luisa said. “I learned from my one aunt, sister of my grandfather, how to make the best tamales. My grandmother specialized in empanadas and another aunt made the best mole.”
Expect those dishes along with tortilla soup every day, Maria Luisa said.
And after the meal?
“Yes, Maria’s desserts are fantastic,” Troiani exclaimed. “She won’t be selling her desserts anywhere else but at our restaurant now.”
Javier Solario was the second oldest of Maria’s seven children. He came to the United States in the mid-1990s and worked at Gabriel’s in Highwood before becoming general manager at Francesca’s in Lake Forest.
That’s where he met Troiani, who grew up in the Chicago area and worked in the restaurant industry, starting out as a hostess and server at a steakhouse before becoming a restaurant manager after college.
“We realized we worked well as a team professionally and personally,” Troiani said. “We also recognized that there was no authentic Mexican cuisine close by, and we both enjoy making food from scratch.”
The next step was to look for a location close to Market Square, to open their shared vision of a restaurant that “offers homage to original Mexican dishes made from scratch every day,” Troiani said.
The 2,800-square-foot location at 770 N. Western Ave., previously a sports car showroom and antique store, also has space for outdoor tables out front and an awning to cover customers in case of rain.
When patrons walk in, there will be a small lounge with couches and comfy chairs on their left situated next to the bar. Bar seats for 18 will be available to sample “margarita flights.” The dining area covers much of the rest of the restaurant, seating more than 110 people. Plans are in the works for blocking off a back room for private parties. The back wall will house an inset shelving unit for featured wines, and the wall to the left will be decorated by electric candles.
Solario and Troiani drafted the initial floor layout themselves, before going to a designer to fill in details.
“We wanted to go with green options,” Troiani said. “An Old World rustic meets New World Mexican décor. Reclaimed barn wood from Wisconsin will be used for the bar walls, with copper tops.”