Franklin Park eatery’s recipe for sucess: ‘decent product, decent price’
Giovanni Faso has been in the restaurant business since age 10. but opened up his first restaurant, Ristorante Benvenuti, about a year ago. | Photos by Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 20, 2012 8:32AM
After 32 years of working in the food business, Giovanni Faso is celebrating his first year of being a restaurant owner this month.
Faso started Ristorante Benvenuti, located at 9400 Grand Ave., Franklin Park, in April 2011.
On a recent Wednesday, two lasagnas and a pizza had just come out of the oven and the aroma would be enough to pique the appetite of anyone wandering inside.
Faso, 46, was born in Palermo, the capital of Sicily. He moved to Chicago with his family at age 9, but there is still a trace of Sicilian in his voice.
Within 18 months of his arrival, he was working weekends as a prep boy at Vito Angelo’s, a restaurant near Fullerton and Central Park.
“I’d cut chickens, make coleslaw, cut the bread, prepare pizza sauce,” Faso said.
When his parents decided to retire back in Palermo, he joined them. He completed high school and found a job at a restaurant making pizzas.
“Cosella Bianca,” Faso said. “I loved it.
“It was right off the ocean. In the summer, it was wonderful. You had a lot of tourists.”
After three years, he returned to Chicago and his job at Vito Angelo’s. He worked there another eight years, first making pizzas and then as a general cook.
Then one of his brothers opened a restaurant in Bridgeport near Comiskey Park and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s house. Faso ran the kitchen and pizza section for eight years, until the mayor decided to move to the South Loop.
“When Mayor Daley moved out, the neighborhood got bad,” Faso said. “A lot of gangbangers started to move in.”
His brother closed the restaurant. Faso bounced around for the next several years, working at Chicago restaurants, including Mary’s on Clark, Martino’s and Cortile.
Then, in 1994, his first child was born. The long hours of the restaurant business were not compatible with being a father. So Faso switched from the restaurant business to doing sales for an Italian food distributor.
It wasn’t until 2010 that he got the urge to get back into the restaurant business.
“When you start this when you’re young, you think you want to get away from it,” Faso said. “But it calls you back.
“ It’s something wired in me. I felt like I have to do this.”
But not as an employee. He began looking for a location and found a building partially occupied by the Underpass Restaurant.
“Everyone used to think ‘you’re crazy. A lot of businesses opened up and closed over there.’
“I turned around and said ‘I’m going to be there and I’m going to run the show; and I’m going to give them a decent product at a decent price.’”
Though the economy has been weak, Faso opened the 35-seat restaurant in Franklin Park.
“People have to eat,” Faso said. “Even though they don’t go out two or three times a week, they have to take their girlfriends out, their wives out.
“Maybe they don’t have dessert, maybe not three glasses of wine, but they have to go out.”
He recently added lunch hours. He plans to expand his outdoor patio and will experiment with delivering pizzas.