DYER | Chef Andrew Easterday says he brought a bit of Italy to Northwest Indiana when he opened his new restaurant in late November.
Easterday’s Little Italy features the fresh ingredients, home-made goodness and European charm of an old-world eatery, he said.
“The feeling in the restaurant is like sitting on the streets on (Chicago’s) Taylor Street.” Easterday said. “There are awnings on the inside and there are string lights. It’s like sitting in a café outside Mulberry Street in New York City.”
Then there is the food.
“We make everything from scratch except the dry pasta and the ice cream,” Easterday said.
Entrees such as Chechen Parmesan, baked ziti, and braised beef ribs can be ordered in two-sizes – the Little Italy, which serves one or two, and the Big Italy, which serves two or three. Diners also can enjoy hand-tossed Neapolitan-style pizzas featuring dough made fresh daily, hand-rolled gnocchi, hand battered appetizers such as the crispy mozzarella balls, house-made soups and dressings.
Originally from Charleston, Ill., Easterday came to Chicago 15 years ago to attend the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. After graduating, he joined the staff of a well-known Chicago hotel where the general manager decided to send him to Italy and be trained in pizza-making as well as Italian cuisine.
“It was literally the small town boy going to the big city, Easterday said. “When I went to Italy it was the first time I was ever on a plane.”
In Italy, Easterday learned to love the food, and the family-style atmosphere of its eateries. He’s trying to duplicate both at his new restaurant.
“I’m trying to make it as authentic as possible,” he said.
Before opening Little Italy, Easterday was the corporate executive chef to Four Star Restaurant Group’s Chicago-based eateries and executive chef of Fornetto Mei, near the Magnificent Mile.
He chose to open his own place in Dyer, because the space is owned by his father-in-law, the owner of four Pop’s Italian Beef and Sausage franchises.
“He was in this space but moved down the street this was available and he said 'go for it,’" Easterday said. “It’s a good location with lots of traffic. It was a perfect storm kind of thing.”
Easterday and his wife, Theresa, spent about $90,000 renovating the space, which she said they should make back in less than five years.
The restaurant has been opened for only a short-time but it’s getting rave reviews from its diners. Easterday said.
We’ve had people come back six to eight times in the first month,” he said. “It’s different from what people are used to as far as the great quality and affordable prices, but the food is the big part.”