Sundays have always been a day to dine with family, and nobody understands that better than Wood co-owners Franco Gianni and Gary Zickel. The pair have been partners in business and in life for nearly 10 years — their past projects include Sushi Wabi and Tank Sushi — and chose the name of the restaurant as an homage to Gianni’s father, who died shortly before the spot’s launch last summer. “He was in the woodworking business, and he always wanted me to be a part of that,” explains Gianni. “This is my tribute to him.”
Gianni says his father would feel proud of his namesake space. “Our menu is exactly what he loved to eat,” he says. That menu, crafted by one-time Alinea chef Ashlee Aubin, is made up of a regularly rotating selection of small plates, charcuterie and larger entrees, including sweet potato ravioli with oxtail ($11), chicken liver mousse ($6) and homemade spaghetti topped with a lobster, cognac and tomato sauce ($29). There’s also a slate of flatbread pizzas ($13), served piping hot from the wood-burning oven — yet another reason behind the restaurant’s moniker.
Zickel was adamant that all of the food be sourced locally, so Wood receives daily deliveries of everything from herbs to meat from several “little farms” across the Midwest. The duo had a similar vision when creating the drink menu — they pour primarily organic liquors, many of which are made in small batches or locally, such as Wilmette’s North Shore vodka. “This street is filled with bars that serve marshmallow and bubble-gum vodka,” laughs Zickel. “I won’t let that stuff in the door.” Instead, they’ve crafted a series of unique cocktails ($11 each) along with whiskey and Madeira flights, served on wooden flight boards designed at Gianni’s father’s factory.
The fact that the intimate spot is in Boystown is no accident, either: The two live in the neighborhood, and felt it was historically underserved when it came to high-quality restaurants. “We wanted to do something different than what everyone else is doing here. I think we’re definitely filling a need,” says Franco. It’s clear that the neighborhood agrees. “The response has been tremendous. They’ve embraced us with open arms.”
3335 N. Halsted, (773) 935-9663, Woodchicago.com
Story by Rachel Handler