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Trattoria Owner: Gourmet Food, Sensible Prices

Carlos Montiel said he's had his eye on former Rossini's site for 20 years. He explains his formula for success at restaurants in Arlington Heights, Northfield and elsewhere.

 

Walking around La Tavola Trattoria in Niles at its grand opening last week, Carlos Montiel was all smiles as he greeted guests.

Co-owners Mario Montiel and Mark Kroh were also on hand to welcome diners during the crowded evening. A third Montiel brother, the French-trained Chef Eddy, is one of the restaurant's two chefs; the other is Chef Sergio. 

"I recommend to be daring when you come to La Tavola," Carlos Montiel said. "Get half and half dishes--like half veal, half pasta. Indulge. The Veal Carlos is terrific."

All of the pasta is homemade, he said, describing that as part of the restaurant's philosophy of serving gourmet Italian food that is priced as a good value for the money.

It's worked before. Montiel opened his first restaurant in 1985, and his partnership owns Carlos and Carlos Restaurants in Arlington Heights, Guatemala and the Montiel brothers' native Costa Rica. They also own in Northfield.

"We also own coffee farms and macademia farms in Guatemala," said Carlos Montiel.

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As an entrepreneur, he takes note of sites he likes, and he liked the 8808 N. Milwaukee Avenue site in Niles when he first saw it about 20 years ago.

"I saw a charismatic, busy place," he said. "I came a few times, then drifted away. 

After Rossini's closed and then Kalyva, which at one point changed its name to Elia, closed, he came to see it again, describing it as dark and "like a sick child."

"I talked to Mark and Mario and said, 'I feel the same way today (about this place) as I felt 25 years ago when I opened my first restaurant in Chicago."

They needed some convincing, but Carlos Montiel said he urged them to look at the place's potential.

"Everyone wants to take the best looking girl," he said. "This was a beautiful girl, she just needed a haircut."

A contractor was brought in to give the "girl" a new look, with warm colors and woodwork, in a contemporary Mediterranean style.

"I see a need for something like this--something full of life, with great service and food," Montiel said.

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Debbie Juris May 17, 2012 at 04:46 PM
La Tavola has absolutely wonderful food. I am so excited that they have opened in Niles.
Yvonne Seiden November 30, 2012 at 10:07 PM
My husband and I have been wanting to try La Tavola since it opened and finally did this week. FABULOUS in every way. A warm greeting, attentive service and the food made us want to cry, it was so good. I had the Lasagna and it was the best I've ever had. Even the garnish was delicious, the salad, the mushroom soup all scrumptious. My husband, a amateur food critic, had the Veal Parmesan and agreed it was the best he has ever had and he has had many. Everyone should try this restaurant and may they be there for 30 yrs!

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