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September 2014

Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet:

Best Year Yet!

Thank you for joining us at Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet! We could not have asked for better weather - and an even better crowd - and hope you enjoyed all of the food, wine, spirits, beer, and fun this year's event had to offer.

12,526. That's how many of you came out to celebrate the BEST FOOD CITY IN THE WORLD, completely selling out the Hamburger Hop, Late Night Gourmet sponsored by CS magazine, and Saturday and Sunday's Main Event.

With Gratitude. Chicago Gourmet would not be possible without our talented participants, nor without the generosity of title sponsor Bon Appétit magazine and presenting sponsor COUNTRY Financial, was taken to a new level, thanks to the addition of James Beard Foundation recognized chefs from near and far.

We would also like to thank Allen Brothers Steaks and Lagunitas Brewing Company for starting the weekend on a high note at the Hamburger Hop, where Chef Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery valiantly earned the Judge's Choice title and Chefs John Hogan & Tony Mantuano from River Roast took home the People's Choice award.

And most importantly, we'd like to thank YOU. It is your enthusiasm and support that allows us to keep Chicago the premier destination on the world's culinary map.

Commemorate the fun-filled fest with your own Chicago Gourmet t-shirt from Flavour Gallery. If you didn't get a chance to purchase this weekend, snag one of your favorite styles online.


September 25-27, 2015


Event for House Speaker Michael Madigan

Please join the restaurant, hospitality, and tourism industry for a reception in honor of Michael J. Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, on Tuesday, October 14th. Speaker Madigan is one of the most pragmatic leaders we have. This event gives us the opportunity to come together and speak with one voice on the issues that matter most to our industry.

Click here for the invitation.

Please RSVP to Andy Peters at or 312-380-4134.


Q&A With Rosati's Pizza

Congratulations to Rosati’s Pizza on celebrating 50 years in business! The IRA recently had the opportunity to speak with Marla Topliff, President of Rosati’s Pizza, who provided the history behind the company, savvy business advice, as well as, how Rosati’s is marking this significant milestone.

How did Rosati's come to be?

In 1895, an Italian immigrant from the region of Naples, Italy, Ferdinand Rosati opened a fine-dining Italian restaurant on Coney Island. In 1906, he moved to Chicago and started yet another Italian restaurant on Chicago’s famous Taylor Street. Given the restaurant’s immense success, a hotel, saloon, and a small importing and exporting business of Italian foods were added to the restaurant. Back then, pizza was strictly old-world Italian fare- simply tomato sauce served on crisp bread that Ferdinand often put on the table as a special offering to his customers and boy, did the people love it!

By 1927, Ferdinand’s son, Saverio (Sam) Rosati opened another restaurant on Pulaski and Madison in Chicago, right next to the Marbro Theater. The restaurant became a favorite among the old Chicago society and Windy City politicians. On any given night you might spot Jack Haley, famous for his role as the “Tin Man” in The Wizard of Oz, enjoying a hearty helping of Sam’s homemade Italian specialties, or contrary to popular belief, notorious gangster, Al Capone and his entourage could be spotted sharing a heaping dish of pasta with his so called “nemesis”, Eliot Ness.

When Sam retired, his sons moved to the suburbs with a new and timely concept. The year was 1964 and pizza was now a popular trend. Saverio’s sons Dick, Ron and Al Rosati opened the first Rosati’s Pizza in Mount Prospect, Illinois. By 1978, a total of ten Rosati family members owned carryout pizzerias.

With the Rosati name firmly established in the Chicago suburbs, the family took another giant leap and started franchising their Rosati’s Pizza restaurants. Today, Rosati’s is honored to say the Rosati’s brand is approaching 200 restaurants nationally, including the newest concept, the Rosati’s Sports Pub.

Rosati's is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014. To what do you attribute this success? Any advice for pizza entrepreneurs?

With over 100 years in operation, Rosati’s is one of the oldest surviving family pizzerias in the US. Generations of midwesterners have grown up with the brand and continue to spread its name to every corner of the country. Rosati’s is still run by members of the original Rosati family and has grown organically and carefully with a common-sense approach.

With over 200 locations throughout the US, the secret to our success isn’t a secret at all. It’s pretty simple: demand. The people who grew up with Friday night Rosati’s pizza in the Chicagoland area now demand this unique flavor, quality and family experience wherever it is they now call home. People call us every day wondering when Rosati’s will come to their area, proving that authentic Italian food mixed with authentic, genuine people, is the Rosati recipe that America can’t get enough of!

I think the biggest challenge for new entrepreneurs is choosing the brand that’s right for them. There are over 60,000 pizza places in the United States, which makes for a pretty wide playing field, so a good entrepreneur needs to investigate before they invest.

Once deciding on the brand, the entrepreneur then needs to understand the commitment. It is imperative that when entering into this or any business you do it with eyes wide open and a full understanding of the venture you are about to embark on. The pizza business is a 24/7, hands-on operation that takes dedication and hard work but if you’re willing to commit the reward well outweighs the risk.

What are the biggest challenges in the restaurant business? What are the biggest rewards?

These days the challenges are greater then ever. Finding the right location, hiring the right staff, negotiating the landmine that is the commodities market to purchase product, new state and federal laws that are making the restaurant business more restrictive, all of this and so much more, but every business has challenges. There is nothing here we can’t overcome if we work smart.

As for the rewards, well, that’s the best part! Besides the obvious financial rewards, and the pizza business can be very profitable, there is the personal pride in taking your place as part of a community. We love hearing from people about how they have grown up with our pizza and are now ordering Rosati’s for their children. We love having customers brag about us to their friends. We even had one customer send us a photo of a proposal spelled out in pepperoni on a Rosati’s pizza. That family and community connection is our greatest reward.

Is Rosati's doing anything special to celebrate this significant milestone?

Of course! Rosati’s launched an insta-win digital scratch-off. It starts with a pizza animation where a pizza box opens and customers can rub their finger over the pizza to reveal a prize. It’s a fun, interactive and rewarding way to show our appreciation to our customers. People can win complementary Rosati’s food and products, sponsored prizes and it is also a sweepstakes entry to win a week-long trip for two to Naples, Italy. Anyone can play daily at We chose Naples, Italy, because that is where the Rosati family’s aspiration for becoming hospitable restaurateurs all started.

How important do you think marketing is to running a successful business? Social media?

Marketing is imperative if you are establishing your brand. You need to stay up to date with your industry’s trends and make sure you are aligning your strategy to fit your demographic.

If your customers are 18-35 you are most likely to find them online so having a company website which integrates online ordering and utilizing social media affectively are important. Social media marketing can be cost-effective when trying to reach the masses and is one of the best ways to connect on a personal level with your customers, utilize as a customer service outlet and provide an interactive experience.

Email marketing is another inexpensive way to reach your customers and it is easy to integrate a signup section on your website to gather customer emails to send out specials to your customers. It is also important for your restaurant to be involved in the community and utilize in-store and neighborhood marketing.

What does the next 50 years look like for Rosati's? Any plans for growth?

Rosati’s is rapidly expanding and evolving; right now we have over 200 locations in 17 states. We have recently introduced our newest concept, the Rosati’s Pizza Sports Pub, and it’s been hugely successful. Over the past few months, we have opened 8 locations throughout the US, and are on target to open 15 new stores by the end of first quarter next year.

As long as the owners, staff and the entire family continue the Rosati’s legacy, Rosati’s will be around for numerous generations, providing the same authentic Chicago pizza families have grown to love.

What's the number one selling pizza? What's your personal favorite on the menu?

The number one selling pizza is the Rosati’s Monster; it is made up of gourmet Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, green pepper, Canadian bacon, meatball, black olives, green olives, sliced tomato and bacon with mozzarella cheese. My personal favorite is the Godfather, made with with Italian sausage, fresh garlic, onion and Rosati's hot giardiniera with lots of mozzarella on a crispy thin-crust.


Don't Miss It

November 14: From the Chef's Table

You're invited to 2014 IRA Chef's Table presented by Home Run Inn. The 37th Annual Restaurateurs Event celebrates and honors the foodservice industry, allowing professionals to come together each fall. The proceeds from the evening benefit the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's Scholarship Initiative and ProStart Program.

Click here to register!

Sanitation Certification Schedule for Fall Quarter

The Illinois Restaurant Association's Fall Quarter schedule for sanitation certification classes is now available.

Click here to view the calendar.

Click here to register for classes.



News & Notes

Wages and Health Insurance Seminar a Huge Success

In September, IRA members participated in a seminar discussing what operators need to know about changes to wages and health insurance policies.

Thank you to Mesirow Financial and Clark Hill PLC for sponsoring this event. Also, thank you to Hubbard Inn for hosting.

For more information about upcoming events, please contact the IRA Membership Department at 312-787-4000.


Aurora Area CVB Launches Competition to Find the Area's CULINARY CHAMPIONS

The Aurora Area Convention & Visitors Bureau announces the first competition to find the CULINARY CHAMPIONS!

Mayors and Village Presidents in the 10 communities comprising the Aurora Area will judge in 10 food categories: Bar-B-Q, burger, dessert, Earth-to-Table, ethnic, pizza, seafood, soup, steak or veggie/vegan dish that’s NOT a salad. Who has the BEST? We’ll find out!

Hinckley, IL will host the first competition on Tuesday October 7 at the Village Hall located at 720 James St. P: 815.286.3836. We will start at 6:00 pm. Village President Jim Roderick will be the host judge. We’ll find out who has the best STEAK!

Eric Fine the Director of Sales & Marketing for the Illinois Restaurant Association will “officiate” over the judging process. Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association and many of the local Chambers of Commerce will help publicize the event to their memberships.

All restaurants in Aurora, Batavia, Big Rock, Hinckley, Montgomery, North Aurora, Plano, Sandwich, Sugar Grove and Yorkville are invited to participate. The dish you enter MUST be a regular menu item. This month’s competition is for the BEST STEAK! To enter the competition, submit your restaurant name & address, name of your dish and contact information to Mike Pfeiffer of the CVB at his email ONLY THE FIRST 10 ENTRANTS WILL BE ACCEPTED! (First come, first served)!

The end result? The 10 CULINARY CHAMPIONS along with the 1st & 2nd runners up each month will be featured in a new travel itinerary that will be used to attract out-of-town visitors to our area to enjoy the BEST 30 food dishes our restaurants have to offer! ARE YOU HUNGRY YET?

For more information about the Aurora Area CVB, go to


New Members

The Association is pleased to welcome:

Epiphania Blue
Frio Gelato
Global Beverage Team
CLS Background Investigations
Habanero Baja Grill
Municipal Bar
Max's Wine Dive Chicago
National Affinity Solutions
Valpak of Chicagoland
Extrinity LLC
Kaiser Tiger & Paddy Long's
Marble Logan Square

Platinum Sponsors


Gold Sponsors


Silver Sponsors


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