Above, Chicken Parmesan made the old-fashioned way at new Disotto restaurant in Highwood. – Disotto restaurant photos
by Tina Johansson
The Italian-influenced City of Highwood with its thriving, independently owned restaurant community is the perfect canvas for new restaurant Disotto.
The dining spot with its welcoming atmosphere and décor reminiscent of vintage Italy, opened this spring at 310 Green Bay Road to rave reviews.
Chef Scott Harris, the owner and founder of the esteemed Francesca Restaurant Group adds the Highwood site to his 37 other eateries, including locations in Lake Forest, Northbrook and Barrington.
It takes hard work, a lot of luck, and some help from God along the way.” – Scott Harris, owner of 38 restaurants
Harris, 55, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, opened his first restaurant called Mia Francesca, adoringly named after his wife, in 1992 on North Clark Street.
“I was trained in French cooking, but my first restaurant was Italian,” said Harris who attended culinary school in Joliet. He went on to work in white tablecloth restaurants to further hone his craft.
He said he felt that Italian fare would be welcomed by diners, because, let’s face it, most everyone loves Italian food.
Today the group includes five concepts – Francesca’s, Davanti Enoteca, Glazed and Infused doughnuts, Fat Rosie’s Taco & Tequila Bar, and his latest venture – Disotto, spanning four states – Illinois, North Carolina, California and Wisconsin.
“Right now, I am having so much fun with Glazed and Infused,” he said. “I love making people happy with doughnuts.”
“There is no secret to my success,” said Harris, who when he was a young man, lost his father. “To become successful, it takes hard, hard work. I worked all through my 20s at some very fine dining establishments.”
When his father was suddenly killed on his way to work early one morning – his life cut short by a drunk driver – Harris and his siblings were left money from a life insurance policy.
With the life insurance money, and a $45,000 loan from his grandmother, Harris opened his first restaurant in Chicago.
Currently, Daniel Harris, corporate executive chef who happens to be the owners’ nephew, is overseeing the new Highwood eatery, the 38th in the Francesca group. Daniel Harris will soon be replaced by Daniel Moody, as Disotto’s executive chef.
The dishes at Disotto’s are rustic and home-style, prepared with fresh, local ingredients, sure to make anyone feel like they have been prepared in their nonna’s kitchen.
The new eatery is located in the former Gabriel’s Restaurant which was at the spot for nearly 20 years. Harris is leasing the building from local businessman and restaurateur Gabriel Viti.
Harris remodeled the place adding old barn-wood floors to give it rustic charm. “It feels like you’re in an Italian wine cellar or an Italian country house,” he said.
Disotto’s dining room and main bar seats 80 diners, with two areas in a lower level for more dining and a small service bar. There is also outdoor patio space in front to accommodate an additional 20 diners. Harris planted flowers and trees to add beauty and to add to the Italian garden look.
“It takes hard work, a lot of luck, and some help from God along the way,” said Harris, who considers himself blessed.
He apparently also believes that a man’s word should be gold. “Within one year, I paid everything I owed to my grandmother, back to her,” he said.
Disotto is at 310 Green Bay Road in Highwood. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday lunch 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., dinner 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday brunch 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., dinner 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.; and Sunday brunch 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., dinner 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.