Thursday, March 24, 2011

Unexpected, Ominous Signs Appear on the Windows at Gioco

No need to push the panic button yet Sloopers!

On Wednesday and Thursday we received numerous emails from concerned readers about some ominous signs that appeared in the windows at Gioco (1312 S. Wabash):

I live on the same block as Gioco, and they have signs in the windows saying something to the effect of Closed Today and Until Further Notice; Sorry For the inconvenience. Does anyone know anything about this? It's such a great place...
Another writes:

I was walking by Gioco and saw it was closed. The signs in the window stated that Gioco would be closed today and until further notice. Not sure if they are closed permanently. Any ideas? Scoop?
Before fanning the flame, we decided to shoot a quick email to KDK restaurants (who runs Gioco) to inquire. Here is what they said:

We are hoping to overcome a temporary glitch that caused the closing. I would appreciate your patience and understanding.
We prodded a little more and they did say they play to reopen. So no need to panic just yet, it sounds like you will be enjoying some Italian food shortly.
Chicago restaurateur Jerry Kleiner, a co-owner in Gioco, at 1312 S. Wabash Ave., says the state suspended its retail license Wednesday because Gioco has fallen behind in making required employee withholding and sales tax payments. He hopes the closing will be temporary and said he and his partners in owner KDK Restaurants Inc. are working with the Illinois Department of Revenue to get the license reinstated.

Mr. Kleiner said Gioco is making money — he declined to provide specifics — but has suffered in a financial restructuring at KDK, which at one time owned a string of high-end eateries, including Marché in the West Loop and Opera, Gioco's neighbor just up Wabash. Marché closed in June after a near-two-decade run, and Opera shut its doors in December.

Now KDK is down to just one restaurant: Red Light. Mr. Kleiner said Gioco's success has helped keep Red Light afloat and delayed the demise of Opera.

"We're going to make good on the taxes owed," Mr. Kleiner said. "Gioco is very profitable. It just got caught in the fire."
Ironically, we actually went to Gioco this past week and had arguably one of the best meals we've had at the restaurant (we've probably been a dozen times over the past couple of years).
We opted for the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer (a staple whenever we go) and then split the tortellini and the Filetto Con Salsa Al Barolo for the first time. The filet dish was amazing. Two 4 oz Gorgonzola Dolce Crusted Beef Filets, Roasted Cippolini Onions, Sautéed Rapini, & Barolo Sauce.

Hopefully we will be able to have this dinner again soon!
What do you think is going to happen?

(Hat tip: DR, CS, BK, SLA, KDK, HAD!)


Anonymous said...

Just how gullible are you? Not gonna reopen.

Sloopy said...


Anonymous said...

Noooooo!! I love Gioco! The filet dish has always been my favorite, along with most of the brunch items. I will be truly sad if it does not re-open. At least reopen to let us have our sad final goodbye meal.

Anonymous said...

Something very strange is going on with Kleiner. He is selling his house and I thought that he would have most likely owned the buildings of the restaurants at this point since many of the places have been running for nearly twenty years.

Does anybody know if the building opera was sold to the guys from the scout or did they lease the space from Kleiner?

I love Gioco and it sucks that it probably won't re- open. The "mistakes" Kleiner said were made seem odd. The guy has been in the business for ever and those errors sound like rooky mistakes. Sorry but I think this guy is liquefying everything and leaving. Let's just cross our fingers that a good place replaces it.

Tired of seeing places come in that are horrible. Like Donna's which I would be shocked if it stayed open for an entire year.

Let's cross our fingers for the scout. It is refreshing a business is going to open in our neighborhood from people who have business experience. Hope to see the trend of experienced businesses coming in to continue.

Anonymous said...

The food has gone down hill the last couple of years…I'm sorry I will not shed a tear if they don't return.

My fingers are crossed this place reopens soon with new owners and a new menu! God willing it will be a better Italian restaurant the next time around!

Anonymous said...

Sweet. I suppose the YouSwoop gift certificates I purchased in Nov. no longer retain any value and won't be honored for a refund if Gioco shuts their doors permanently. Thanks, Kleiner.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that youswoop would be liable to refund the amount. Not sure how that works, but I would check with them.

SouthLoopScot said...

Not a fan, to much money for what you get... But I'd really hate to see the South Loop lose another business.

Unknown said...

This is the death of the South Loop. All you do is complain about your restaurants, now you will be the desolate strip which you are now, you could have been Chicago's next restaurant destination: Say good bye: Room 21, Cuatro, Topaz Opera, Gioco, etc. I guess your so happy about some new sports bar opening: Scout. But you are just filled with endless abandoned storefront and vacant lots and a few Subways mixed in between. You did this to yourself South Loop. Enjoy your Subways!

Anonymous said...

I ate there once. Couldn't believe the bartender did not know how to make a Negroni (in an Italian restaurant)! The manager had to download the recipe off the internet to show her. UGH!
Food was okay, but not memorable enough to go back.

Anonymous said...

I hate to be a hater, but this place sucked. Nice ambiance, Nice people, but boring food. No spice, no flavor the two times I went in.

I am not going to miss it.

However, I am not looking forward to an empty storefront either.

Anonymous said...

This place is NOT re-opening. Just like Room 21, Opera, Grace O'Malleys, Quatro, South Loop Wine Cellar, exposure/utopia/etc., Wine Styles, and on and on . . .

Anonymous said...

Oh no, not another one. What a pity!

Though I have to agree that the food was not spectacular it was certainly decent! Some of the portions were small for the price but well that is happening at other places, too.

The ambiance was nice, and I have been there for dinner & weekend brunch various times (not to forget picking up take-out pizzas). It was a nice part of the Sloop! Sad to see that so many places are disappearing.

I hope they are re-opening soon, but as many others here I fear this is a final closure.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious for those that actually live in the South Loop, do you eat out much? If you do, do you find yourself driving out of the South Loop to go to dinner or is there just a bigger cultural of people eating at home because the neighborhood options are less than desirable?

Anonymous said...

Sucks, but I think he would have been successful if he had focused more on quality of food instead of fancy decorating and high prices...

Anonymous said...

@anon 10:09-I live in the Sloop and I chose to eat at home way more than I chose to go out to eat. I do so more for health reasons, and the fact that I really love to go to the ethnic grocery stores in the surrounding areas like little village, china town, and pilsen. That is not to say that I don't love to go out to eat as well, but my general feeling is that the SLoop is not, nor will not be a place I would eat when I do chose to eat out. Some places are nice, but the price that they charge can be obnoxious (Little branch charges a lot for their burger for example) Ths only place I do enjoy in the Sloop is Flo and Santos. I am also very much looking forward to having Tribute come May. Personally I perfer going to places like Nightwood (personal favorite), Nana, Phils pizza, Han202, Mercat, China town, etc, that are very good restaurants where you pay a proper price for the food you are eating.

Anonymous said...

I love Gioco. Very good, pretty traditional Italian food. It's really not that expensive at all...what do you expect to pay? I hope this place reopens.

Anonymous said...

Oh man,

This potential closing brings up some good issues. As a south loop resident, I wish we had more quality places to eat...however, how are good restaurant owners going to have the confidence to open up here if we don't support the good restaurants we already have. I think that Gioco had very delicious authentic Italian food. Many of the pastas were homemade, if you wanted steak or vegetarian you could find it; and the brunch I believe to be one of the hidden gems of our neighborhood. I always tried to give shout-outs to my neighbors and friends close by to go and try it; really solid with much less wait than other places in the area. Gioco was one of the better restaurants in our area. Yet more recently when I dined there, I saw weak crowds. If south loopers choose to eat at home and not frequent restaurants in their area, we will not get new influx of business. I am not suggesting to eat out at places that don't provide quality...I am sure we all know some of those in the area as well (Can I still smell the smoke from that fire?) but come the ones you like!! South Coast has delicious sushi!! Coast up North gets great business; why not ours (the menu and quality is almost exactly the same)! Zapatista is a great place to get some good tacos and a great margarita; stop there after work or on a Friday when you feel like some fun but don't want to travel too far. Flo and Santos is a great place for a pizza, beer, and to watch a game. Try it don't just head up North without giving it a shot. Gioco was a great place to go for a nice dinner with a good friend to drink some good wine and have a nice leisurely conversation. Panozzos has crave worthy sandwiches; awesome fresh Italian sausage to add to sauce, pop on the grill, scramble up with your eggs! Little Branch is a quiet place to get some good food and a good cup of coffee in the morning. We have choices-but if we keep passing them by for a cab or train ride up North or our own couch, we will have much more to complain about in a few short years!

BK said...

I live in the South Loop and go out for dinner way too much. We go to Flo & Santos, Reggies, Cafe Bionda, La Cantina, Ma & I, Flaco's Tacos, Yolk and Zapatista. All places which we think have great food. We never get in the car to go out to eat.

We have gone to Gioco three times and were not crazy about it. For us, Cafe Bionda is much better, but definitely do not want another empty storefront.

Anonymous said...

I agree with BK. There are solid and good options in the neighborhood. I think this is just the nature of the retail world.

Let's face it every store/restaurant/bar/business doesn't survive. Sometimes it's because their product isn't good and sometimes it's because other issues. It ain't easy running a restaurant.

Maybe Gioco wasn't good. Maybe KDK took an overly aggessive growth strategy. Maybe management simply didn't run the business well. Maybe they offered too many specials (I think every time I ate at one of the KDK restaurants it was because I had a coupon/gift certificate).

The point is...who knows. If they never open again it's probably due to numerous things.

I personally hope it reopens. I think it's been a stapple for the South Loop. If it doesn't, I'm sure another restauranteur will cease the opportunity to try to start/build their empire. This stuff is cyclical.

Cherise said...

Well, this is unfortunate.

I enjoyed every meal I had here, except the mediocre desserts and the waitstaff's attitudes toward redeeming Groupons and YouSwoops.

Anonymous said...

CCB is now reporting Red Light is now closed with a licensing problem.

Anonymous said...

Wonder what this means for the Lobby Lounge at the Showplace Icon theaters at the Roosevelt Collection .... doesn't Kleiner run that? the theater site said he "created" it .. but don't know if that involves actually running it.

Anonymous said...

Well this is too bad! Gioco was one of my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood. Though the food really wasnt that great. It shows that the span of restaurants around here are just horrible. The blocks South of Roosevelt and north of 18th St...

Firehouse - Eh overpriced! But decent food.
Weathermark - Not really a food place good for a burger
Krolls - Bar Food OK
Grace Omalleys - Horrible RIP
Opera - Not great way overpriced RIP
Flo and Santos - Good Place but unmemorable pizza
Zapatista - Solid but Mexican is hard to screw up
Ma and I - Good Thai food for a good price
Hardwood - God awful RIP
Wabash Tap - Dont recommend eating here.
Subway X2 - Its consistent
Jimmy Johns - OK
South Coast Sushi - Thank you! You are one of the best sushi places in the city. Please dont leave us.

Well there you have. I may have missed one or two places. This is very sad. Very sad indeed! No wonder nobody goes out to eat in this neighborhood!