DYER | A regular diner popped into the Little Italy restaurant in Dyer on Friday morning – only he was clad in his firefighting gear instead of dressed up for a night on the town.
A fire briefly shut down the new Italian restaurant at 1155 Joliet St., after a forgotten pot of chicken stock left on a low simmer caught flame, causing damage to a hood vent and chimney in the kitchen. The firefighter who regularly dined there told the owners their eatery would be fine, and he was right.
The restaurant was closed all day Friday while fire restoration crews cleaned up after the damage, which was minor and confined to the kitchen area. Little Italy was able to reopen for business Saturday.
"We're back to normal," owner Theresa Easterday said.
So many people drive by the restaurant, at the busy intersection of U.S. 30 and Great Lakes Drive, that word of the fire quickly spread around town. Diners called all day Friday to check on their reservations.
"It's so sweet," Easterday said. "Everyone who called with reservations wanted to make sure everyone was OK. It's touching."
Chef Andrew Easterday, who had previously been an executive chef at Fornetto Mei near the Magnificent Mile, opened the eatery with his wife Theresa in late November. The restaurant, which employs 16, emphasizes fresh ingredients, authentic recipes and European charm.
Business could slow down this weekend because of the fire, but Theresa Easterday said she hoped diners would quickly realize Little Italy had already reopened. She joked on the restaurant's Facebook page that, "things got a little hot in here, but we are back open and ready for a great Saturday night!"
"Being new, we expected hurdles," she said. "We're just glad we jumped this big hurdle and hope things go smoothly from here on out."