Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Kitaro brings sushi and steaks to Munster, Aster + Gray offers artisan goods in Valpo

Kitaro has opened in Centennial Village in Munster.

Recently opened Kitaro Surf & Turf & Sushi aims to bring a downtown Chicago-like dining experience to the new Centennial Village development in Munster.

The upscale restaurant, lavishly decorated with chandeliers, marble floors, plush booths, elegant table setting and bamboo, serves sushi, steak, lobster, seafood and Asian fusion cuisine such as "Japanese Tapas," including tuna goat cheese and crab-stuffed jalapeno.

"We are trying to marry two different concepts," said Carrie Kitaro, who co-owns the eater with her husband John Kitaro. "We have sushi, sashimi and maki rolls, and marry it to a steakhouse where you can get aged steak, filet mignon, ribeye or Japanese seared steak."

They ran Kitaro in LeMont, Illinois for 10 years. They sold it as they prepared to open the new Munster location because they didn't want the stress of running two eateries. They long had eyed a Northwest Indiana location because of a perceived lack of high-end Asian restaurants here.

"We finally found the perfect area," she said. "It's a great location, and there's no other restaurant like this around. It's like a trip to downtown Chicago with the finest sushi and steak. Both the wife and the husband can find something to enjoy. It has downtown style, it's modern and pretty."

The 4,000-square-foot restaurant at 9625 Calumet Ave. Suite A employs about 45 workers and has 140 seats, including at a bar and private dining room that can accommodate parties of up to 50. A seasonal patio will seat another 40.

Diners can watch sushi chefs work the knife at the sushi bar or see the woodfire grill blaze in the open kitchen.

"The interior is very modern and white collar," Carrie Kitaro said. "It's very modern and clean."

The menu features many shareable items and a traditional selection of sushi and sashimi, along with specialty rolls like The Knucklehead with lobster, king crab, avocado, cucumber, spicy mayo and sweet soy, or the Bacon Bomb with shrimp tempura, bacon, avocado, blue cheese, tempura crunch, spicy mayo, sweet soy and a hint of sriracha. Both the Blackhawks and Bears have maki rolls named after them.

The many seafood items include a poke bowl, New England-style lobster roll, Chilean sea bass, pan-seared red grouper, Norwegian salmon, Alaskan King Crab legs as well as "turf" like bone-in pork chops and rack of lamb.

John Kitaro, the chef, has more than 30 years of experience, including in downtown Chicago, New York and Minnesota.

"I am very passionate about the cooking," he said. "I love cooking and love people."

Kitaro is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

For more information, call 219.301.5090, visit www.kitarosurfandturf.com or go to www.facebook.com/kitaromunster.

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Gabrielle Pazour started selling her upcycled, repurposed and refinished furniture at local artisan markets, such as the Fetching Market and Hunt & Gather. 

Her business took off so much she opened the brick and mortar boutique Aster + Gray in downtown Valparaiso in August. Its newly renovated home at 20 Indiana Ave. on the courthouse square includes reclaimed wood from historic barns in Porter County.

The shop sells goods handcrafted by more than 80 local artisans, including Regionwear, Mother Wilma's Marshmallow Factory, Nomad.Breadth, The SpOiled Housewife, BUN's Soapbox and many more.

"We focus on merchandise that's handcrafted by artisans and locally made," Pazour said. "There's a wonderful, very supportive artisan culture. These are people who love what they do."

Aster + Gray sells curated home decor, housewares, soap, bath items, skin care essentials, candles, gourmet food, coffee, tea, jewelry, stationary, apparel and crafts. It has a pet products, such as handcrafted collars and dog treats.

"We're always getting new merchandise in," she said.

Aster + Gray is open from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. After Memorial Day, it plans to have extended hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

For more information, call 219-510-1114, visit www.asterandgray.com or find Aster + Gray on Facebook or Instagram.


Rosati's has opened its second Schererville location at 332 Indianapolis Blvd. at the new Shoppes on the Boulevard development, next to McAlister's Deli and Buona Beef.

The carryout- and delivery-focused restaurant has pizza, salads, Italian beef, Italian sausage, and appetizers.

It's open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

For more information, call 219-440-7943.

If you've got tips about new stores or restaurants anywhere in the Region, or just wonder what's under construction somewhere, contact NWI Business Ins and Outs columnist Joseph S. Pete at joseph.pete@nwi.com or 219.933.3316.