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Moderno to Reopen as More Casual Restaurant

The Italian restaurant led by John des Rosiers that opened in April will close on Dec. 22 and serve reasonably priced American cuisine when it reopens in early January.

Moderno, the modern Italian restaurant that opened in Renaissance Place in April, will close on Dec. 22 and reopen in January as a more casual restaurant serving American cuisine.

The chef-driven restaurant led by John des Rosiers received across the board critical acclaim earlier this year, getting rave reviews from Time Out Chicago, Chicago MagazineThe Sun-Times and here on Patch.

In his glowing review of Moderno, however, Patch columnist Ed Brill predicted what may have been an insurmountable obstacle for the restaurant: its limitations on the guests control over their order.

"The success or failure of [Moderno] will depend on whether or not Highland Park diners will accept a place without a Caesar salad or fried calamari, or if they are willing to eat the dishes as the kitchen envisions them," Brill wrote.

In a press release sent out Thursday afternoon, Renaissance Place General Manager Christiane Fischer said that the transition comes as a response to customers.

"Moderno was a truly great restaurant, but the owners listened to their customers and decided to change the concept to give them what they want, which is a more family focused, affordable dining experience," Fischer said.

The new restaurant, called Royce, will be have a 1930s Art Deco influence and will use fresh, locally grown organic and sustainable ingredients, according to the release. Des Rosiers and Executive Chef Phil Rubino are calling it a chef-driven casual restaurant, with a reasonably priced menu that will include signature and build-your own burgers and a children's menu.

"Residents are looking for a more approachable, casual experience," Business and Economic Development Commissioner Alyssa Knobel said. "They wanted to address those wants and needs, and be more family friendly."

Royce will also offer craft beers, small production wines and premium whiskeys and vodkas, according to the release.

This isn't the first time a restaurant has recreated itself to survive in Highland Park.  closed last year and reopened as Nieto's, a more casual restaurant. And before Bobby Dubin closed Stashs' doors for good, he tried to turn his hot dog place into a more upscale bistro.

Des Rosiers and Fischer were unavailable for comment, but Bluegrass owner Jim Lederer told Patch he thinks it's necessary for any business owner to listen to your customers and have a willingness to change in order to survive. His restaurant has been open since 2004.

"It's change or be changed in today's business environment," Lederer said. "You can't be complacent."

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AK December 23, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Heart and dreams in the food service industry? You must be seriously dumb. Let me describe where it had a chance to work, even arrogant and stupid doesn't deserve any help. High end Shutters hotel right on the ocean front in Santa Monica, CA. Beautiful views combined with nice weather all year round, tons of tourists... and it is not doing well after all. Most customers are bunch of older male and women prostitutes and very few hotel visitors. Incredible service though. NO ONE cares about these fly by nights anymore. Old stuff. Good luck.
Sandy Granroth December 23, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Moderno was a nice replacement for Rosebud as a place to have lunch before a movie. The eclectic menu was interesting and tasty. Sorry it didn't make it. BUT SERIOUSLY, ANOTHER BUILD YOUR OWN BURGER PLACE IN HP??? Get real, when is the City going to support the businesses it always has by not letting every Tom, Dick and Harry come to town and try to duplicate what already works. City Park Grill, an off shoot of the Original Claim Company, is all about building your own great burgers and at a reasonable price. They have recently had to downsize, now we need another entry into the same American fare? Haven't we got a phethora of burger places as it is? Nortons and Blue Grass come to mind besides City Park Grill, and then we have the recent failure of Stash's, yet another burger joint. And what about Michael's, a HP hot dog and burger institution right across the street. Can we say family dining and burgers and think Fuddrucker's??? Rethink this Mr. About to Be Defunct Moderno's...you are on the wrong track.
Bruce Schwartz December 24, 2012 at 12:50 AM
No love for BK? They be on that grind for awhile now. Real talk.
Moe @ the Buck December 24, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Everyone, epic clap to Gilat. CLAP.......CLAP.......CLAP....clap, clap? You just insulted everyone. Good job. We're all not as lucky to fly to Tuscany for fresh pasta. Traveling Europe for the finest in cuisine. Most of us are stuck here in Highwood eating frozen homemade tortelacci with cream sauce and practicing our broken Italian at the deli counter of Poeta's. I can send over some of my friends Mothers and grandmothers to show your guy how to press out pasta if you'd like. If they like you, they will bring homemade wine and fresh mushrooms.
AK December 24, 2012 at 02:51 AM
They are after Highwood's Tap House Grill, whether they know it or not. And the negatives here: they are slightly higher priced in the bigger and way more expensive space. Quite likely, they don't think that way yet, but they will learn.
Jack Straw December 24, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Dago red from the root cellar, I remember well.
Jack Straw December 24, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Call me nuts but when someone says Italian I say, Del Rio. And in the old days if you asked real nice Mike the bartender might sing Rigoletto, by Verdi.
Moe @ the Buck December 24, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Can you believe he finally retired. Now that's old school. He was just a good old city of HP worker. Oh the old days.
forest barbieri December 24, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Sorry if in some way I have offended you. I do not profess to being an expert, merely a concerned community member. Since I have had the opportunity to be involved in several businesses, am a very active parent and often travels to parts of the world where the time change affords me middle of the night quiet time staring at the clock, I admit that sometimes I use that time to catch up on news both financial, world and local. Amazingly, I actually have a lot of other things to do including running several businesses, raising two wonderful children, being a soccer dad, running or contemplating running for office, travelling to Europe, Russia and China for business, building tree houses and swing sets , fixing things around the house and trying to be the best husband and father I can. Somehow, I still have time to comment once in awhile on things that catch my interest within our community. However, no doubt while I am far from an expert on anything, (although some think my knowledge has some financial value), I am most certainly engaged, involved and energized by the things around me. We only get to do this once, stay involved and enjoy!
Steve S. December 24, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Melinda, the snobby patrons as you refer to them have been here a long time. The chef has 2 choices, build a restaurant and menu that the community embraces the food and the ambiance OR you can be the soup Nazi. NO SOUP FOR YOU. PS, If my food sucks I'm gonna send it back, I would doubt that the majority of food sent back was due to changed minds vs. seeing crap on their plate when it gets served.
Steve S. December 24, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Moes bendover pizza? Absolutely genius. I would invest in this project. Small space, small square footage, 8 to 10 tables.
Daniel December 24, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Get a grip Gilat. you can always make a trip out to Lake Bluff.
AK December 24, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Daniel, I thought this board is turning boring and I decided it is time for Jacob Nelson to write a next big thing called "Who Will Support High End Businesses in Downtown Highland Park?" But since you have offered something logical let me just say, Gilat is hard working business owner who wants her "luxury" biz to be well supported. I guess, I slowly got her all worked up with my comments about the lack of HP's luxury future. This is the real connection between Gilat's biz and Moderno and not the homemade pasta/beets.
Jack Straw December 24, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Old Mike is a trained tenor; I remember about 1980 he was stringing Christmas lights high up in the trees, he burst into the greatest version of Figaro. I stood there with Marco Santi in complete amazement, as the bucket swayed and Figaro boomed. They don’t make Men like that anymore.
Daniel December 24, 2012 at 04:39 PM
You are a funny AK. I stayed at Shutters a couple of years ago and missed the old men and prostitutes. I know Gilat, very pretty and opinionated, just not right very often. She is just like the Moderno cook.
David Greenberg December 24, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Larry, I've never claimed to be an expert in everything - only some things. And your presumption that "[I] have nothing better to do" - is in err. I have many things on my plate, but I choose to spend some of my time participating in discussions relevant to the community. If what I have to say disturbs you, know that it wasn't my intent, and it's certainly unfortunate you feel that way.
AK December 25, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Shutters offers one important "locally farm raised" and "sustainable" ingredient that Moderno was missing.... it is a bunch of local high end trannies who use it as pick up place. I was somewhat shocked when I discovered it, but it is what it is. So, Moderno boys and crackhead investors, keep working hard and mix those local beets with local farmer cheese. who gives.
John Desrosiers December 25, 2012 at 12:59 AM
This is John des.rosiers . I just wanted to.say we.feel.like.we built.a great place. It just wasn't the right concept for Highland Park. That said I never received any single request for.a comment. I was never unavainable.as the article suggests. That piece is an.outright lie. I would like to say we have listened to the community over the last year and Royce has taken into consideration every issue our customers brought to us. We.are very excited for the new restaurant and look forward to its opening in a couple of weeks. We want to thank.the community for their feedback and while our idea didn't work this time we look forward to seeing everyone for Royce. We still believe in locally farmed quality foods prepared with great care and Royce will showcase that. Thank.you all for.your comments. Even not positive ones we will learn from. John des Rosiers
Jack Straw December 25, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Well the best of luck to you John, will give it a try. I like a man that knows when to make changes. Have a great new year.
AK December 26, 2012 at 03:21 PM
John, it is not that it is wrong concept for Highland Park, but rather you are being two three years behind the curve with your "inventions"
forest barbieri December 26, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Wish you the best with your new concept as we do not like to see any business fail. I will say that I am unclear why the concept was such a good one and that HP just was not the right place as this suggests that we just did not get your concept or perhaps were not sophisticated enough to appreciate it? Possibly your due diligence was not as good as it could have been? Finally, I want to add that from my perspective the part of the concept that was lacking was the execution....bland unexciting food combined with mediocre service and prices that would suggest better! I know several people that gave you a couple of chances and were disappointed each time. Based on that, if you are truly customer driven...you really need to do some soul searching on the basics of success. Remember the market place determines your genius index! Good luck with your burger joint.
AK December 28, 2012 at 07:52 PM
More restaurant supply keeps coming non stop http://glencoe.suntimes.com/news/15901050-418/destination-eatery-planned-for-downtown-glencoe.html This is by Magnetar hedge fund guy (the one who was doing synthetic CDO bets on the same side as John Paulson). Now he needs luxury restaurant, as he said 250 people six days a week. He obviously has dough to spend and it will open in February. Remaining HP high end dreams should expect hit in the teeth. More conversions into the burger joints? Or into upscale fried chicken wings and Greek? How about combine them all in one big luxury joint for needy people.
RRR December 28, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Having been to Moderno twice, it was not for me. Not that i wanted a clone of Rosebud, but something warm and inviting, great food, and a good vibe. Each time I went to Moderno, I left hungry and $200 less than I had before. When I order pasta, such as Rigatoni tubes, i envisioned a pasta meal and what i got was about 18-20 tubes of pasta lined up beautifully - the presentation was lovely. But it was also $19 for this dish, and did not satisfy my hunger, and I do not have a big appetite ever. We did starters, mains, and dessert, and a bottle of wine. My husband and I are "foodies", we have lived in London, San Francisco, and Atlanta before moving to HP. It was just missing something. THat said, the 2nd time there I was at the bar with my friend having a drink and there was a family with a teen at the bar - she was not 21 but having some wine. Later I figured they were there for no good, as I wearing a gold expensive well known bracelet, and when I got up to leave, the "father" suddenly got up and acted like he was so drunk he couldn't stand, and fell into me and pulled me to the floor tugging on my bracelet, which was screwed closed onto my wrist - I yelled loud and the waitstaff came and he was all drunky and saying "sorry" but I know when someone is trying to rip me off. I mentioned to the manager the girl was no way 21 and if they knew what was good for them they should be tossed out. I left.
AK December 30, 2012 at 09:48 PM
It is hard to manipulate your mind, so Moderno is out of biz. Perhaps, it applies to the most HPers :) http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-11-15/food-reviews/33498030_1_food-restaurant-fast-atmosphere Names like Moderno, Inovasi, Wisma from J des R also suggest he was looking for suckers, opps... I meant high end customers
John P December 31, 2012 at 07:17 AM
Lets see what Royce can do
John P December 31, 2012 at 07:17 AM
Theres only a few good restaurants left in HP. Abigails, Benjamin. Atleast worth mentioning anyway.
Dave Schabes January 12, 2013 at 02:32 AM
Funny, if one were to read Mr. Greenberg's comment out of context, one might think he were reading the comment of a petulant 6-year-old: "I'm hungry, I have something that looks tasty, I want it a certain way - bring it that way or you don't get my money." Also undermining the value of his comment as a contribution to the conversation is the illiterate use of "could care less." Puh-leeze, don't waste our time. Mommy will prepare your meals exactly as you prefer them, Precious.
David Greenberg January 12, 2013 at 05:34 AM
Well the difference between an adult and a 6-yr old is that a 6-yr old throws a tantrum and the adult has to remove the tantrum-thrower from the restaurant. But some adults choose to own/operate restaurants to make their fare available to other individuals. If those individuals don't like what's being served, they're not going to exchange money with the restaurant owner, and if enough people don't fork over the 'dough' (yeah, pun intended), then the restaurant will go out of business. Nothing childish about that - give the public what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and they'll give you money in exchange so you can keep providing what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. Fail do do so at the peril of your business - and if that's harsh, that's unfortunate, but that's life.
Kate February 10, 2013 at 03:09 AM
Why can't a high end restaurant succeed in HP? Do people there just want to dine on boring low end fare
David Greenberg February 10, 2013 at 03:43 AM
I'd hazard a guess that it's location, location, location. All restaurants need to attract repeat customers, and have a lot of them streaming in day-after-day in order to survive. If you want to price yourself higher in the marketplace than the average fare, you need to be able to attract a continuous stream of customers willing and able to pay for your offerings. You need to be easy to get to, have great parking, and other offerings that your customers may desire to frequent either before or after the meal. Take away any of those points, and it's harder to attract and retain customers. Let's review HP: * Downtown/Uptown (whatever you call it): Kinda of a pain to get to from the highway. If you get off 41 at Central - there's 5 stoplights before you get to the morass of traffic downtown if you go down Central with its 25MPH speed zone. Taking the "Bypass" up Deerfield Road/Laurel, there's 3 lights, but you still have to fool around with the right-side beatout drivers at Laurel/Green Bay, and then head into the downtown area. * Parking: It's not too horrible, but when someone is waiting for someone else to pull out of a space, traffic backs up. Parking in the underground garages is a great deal, but who really wants to walk to a high-end restaurant? Often patrons of such fare valet it. * Other: Ummm, some shops. No real theater, except maybe Ravinia, and then that's a whole different travel mess to contend with. Lots to overcome.

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