WOOD Is On Fire!

Longevity is a rarity in any new business venture, but in the restaurant industry, the odds are always against the establishment. However, sometimes the stars align and the right people come together with a solid concept in the perfect location. That is exactly what has occurred with the opening of WOOD, located on the corner of Halsted and Buckingham in Boystown.

back left: Salad with Tomato, cucumber, olive and white anchovy: Front: Spaghetti with Manila clams, white wine and herbs.

The vision of WOOD came from Franco Ginanni whose late father was in the woodworking business, manufacturing high-end office and wood furniture in the Chicago/Cicero area beginning in 1945. That coupled with the notion that master Chef Ashlee Aubin, wanted a wood-burning oven to prepare many of his dishes and the naming then became a no-brainer.

Franco is no stranger to the industry. After college he worked for the Hyatt Corporation as the assistant food and beverage manager then went to Big Time. The list goes on and on, including Crow Bar and Angelina’s. Mr. Gianni explains he was even a waiter at Ooh, La, La, which once occupied the space WOOD now inhabits, coming full circle. Franco tells ShowBiz Chicago that the moment the “For Rent” sign went in the window of the old Firefly (which shuttered last year), they immediately began negotiations to occupy the space. The transformation is aesthetically astounding and is the only intimate, yet lively restaurant of its kind in area (or for most of Chicago for that matter).

Mixologist: Gustavo Bapista

WOOD is owned by three partners, Gary Zickel, Theodora Koutsougeras and Dean Hervochon all of whom bring years of knowledge and passion to the venture. From the moment you step through the doors you are instantly welcomed and attended to with fantastic hosts (which many times maybe one of the owners). WOOD also has very knowledgable and friendly bartenders/mixologists and waiters.

All that aside, a restaurant is only as good as its Chef and on that level, WOOD hits a home run. Chef Aubin’s lineage includes Alinea and Zealous which shows not only in the way he manages his kitchen but also in the staff of the restaurant proper. Front of house staff works seamlessly with back of the house chefs to create a upscale yet down to earth experience.

Chef Aubin has established a creative environment to work in and explains he has assembled the best team imaginable with the notion of keeping farm to table at the forefront of their menu. A few lucky ones have followed Chef Aubin from Alinea as they were looking for what to do next, which he admits is very difficult when you leave an environment like that. His kitchen staff comes in early and leaves late, making sure everything is perfect for their guests. Chef Aubin is also finding much joy in mentoring some of the younger chefs just as he was mentored by Chef Grant Achatz and Chef Matt Chaucer.

CHARCUTERIE: Pork Rillettes; Pâté; Chicken Liver Mousse; Country Ham.

When asked what he brings to WOOD, Chef Aubin says that it is the standards of the prior restaurants he worked at and to strive for that type of excellence every day. Chef Aubin explains that “even though the food is a bit more rustic, the effort that goes into preparing it for our guests is the same as Aliena or any restaurant of that caliber”.

I asked Chef Aubin what he wants customers to come away with after dining at WOOD. “We want them to enjoy the food and drinks. We want people to know that we are part of the community and that we are a neighborhood restaurant. We want everybody in the neighborhood; gay, straight or whomever they may be to come in and feel comfortable and just enjoy.”

WOOD also has a late night walk-up window call Back-Wood’s, which serves Belgian-style fries with about 15 different dipping sauces.

I have dined there on numerous occasions and have sent many of my friends and colleagues and the response has been unequivocally unanimous. WOOD is AMAZING!! It is also perfect for our readers who are going to neighboring theatres and comedy clubs. WOOD is a definitely a labor of love for its owners and Chef. Mr. Gianni told me that for him, WOOD is a final tribute to his father. Well, Franco, you have done your Father proud.

For more information, visit www.woodchicago.com 3335 N HALSTED ST | CHICAGO, IL 60657 | (773) 935-WOOD {9663} BAR SUN-FRI: 5:00 PM-2 AM, SAT: 5:00 PM-3 AM | DINNER SUN-THU: 5:00-10 PM, FRI & SAT: 5:00-11 PM BRUNCH SUN: 10 AM-2:30 PM | BACKWOODS SUN & MON: 10 PM-MIDNIGHT, TUE-SAT: 10 PM-LATE NIGHT