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posted: 3/13/2018 5:30 AM

Italian restaurant with brick-oven pizza coming to Palatine

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  • Portofino Woodfire Pizza and Pasta will open at 375 W. Northwest Hwy. in the Century Plaza Center mall in Palatine in a space previously occupied by the El Torero Mexican restaurant.

    Portofino Woodfire Pizza and Pasta will open at 375 W. Northwest Hwy. in the Century Plaza Center mall in Palatine in a space previously occupied by the El Torero Mexican restaurant.
    Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

  • Owners of the former El Torero restaurant left a message for customers. Replacing it will be Portofino's Woodfire Pizza and Pasta at 375 W. Northwest Highway in the Century Plaza Center mall in Palatine.

    Owners of the former El Torero restaurant left a message for customers. Replacing it will be Portofino's Woodfire Pizza and Pasta at 375 W. Northwest Highway in the Century Plaza Center mall in Palatine.
    Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

 
 

An Italian restaurant that was supposed to open in a Northwest Highway mall in Palatine in 2017 will try again this year in a different space and with a new name.

Under the original plan, Palatine Pizza and Pasta was supposed to open by last August at 375 W. Northwest Hwy. in the Century Plaza Center mall. It would have taken over the former True Woods Cabinetry space.

However, mall owner Manny Rafidia eventually decided on another space that became available after he gained permission for his Palatine Pizza in May 2017.

Palatine village council members Monday night approved what now is Portofino Woodfire Pizza and Pasta. Portofino received a special-use permit and liquor license it needs to open in the shuttered El Torero restaurant at 383 W. Northwest Hwy.

Restaurant highlights will include a wood-burning brick oven for what's billed as old-world pizza and high-end northern Italian-style pasta. Pizza toppings will go beyond the usual, with choices such as fried eggplant, broccoli rabe and Gaeta olives.

Rafidia did not attend Monday's village council session. However, he touted Portofino in a letter to the village.

"I have come across many successful concepts of different pizzas," Rafidia said, "and I am bringing into Palatine, for the first time, brick wood-fired pizza that no one else has in the Northwest suburbs. My study shows that it will be very successful, especially when served with specialty beers and wines."

Along with owning Century Plaza for about 22 years, Rafidia is a longtime restaurateur. Pop's Pizza and Sports Bar in Roselle is part of his business portfolio.

Palatine's director of building and zoning, Ben Vyverberg, said after the meeting the El Torero space will provide greater visibility for Portofino than if it had opened in the True Woods spot farther back at Century Plaza.

Roughly a quarter-mile southeast from Portofino, the recently approved Pizzateca will open at 235 W. Northwest Hwy. next to Dunkin' Donuts in the United Center mall near Smith Street. Pizzateca patrons will choose their dough, sauce and toppings in an assembly line format.

"Northwest Highway is very clearly a commercial corridor, so as you know driving up and down, restaurants are typical and kind of anticipated. ... I think it's a bonus if you kind of have a variety of choices and kind of different restaurant types for residents to choose from," Vyverberg said.

Teresa Nevarez opened El Torero in 2010, replacing a similarly named Mexican restaurant. She gave the space a fresh look with new paint and minor renovations, but kept the same Mexican cuisine from the previous tenant, Torero.