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Kitchen Eatery focuses on comfort food, customers

Kitchen Eatery chef Jose Serrano, owner Chris Conglia and manager Nick Ponzio pose with some of their favorite dishes, a chorizo bowl, sloppy joe and chocolate chip and banana pancakes. (Mari Grigaliunas - mgrigaliunas@shawmedia.com)
Kitchen Eatery chef Jose Serrano, owner Chris Conglia and manager Nick Ponzio pose with some of their favorite dishes, a chorizo bowl, sloppy joe and chocolate chip and banana pancakes. (Mari Grigaliunas - mgrigaliunas@shawmedia.com)

ELMHURST – When Kitchen Eatery opened in the location of the former Kopper Kitchen, it maintained the family business aspect of its predecessor, but created a unique new restaurant.

“We want to be a neighborhood establishment,” said Kitchen Eatery manager Nick Ponzio.

His mother, Sue Ponzio-Pappas and her husband, John Pappas, opened the restaurant in May with Chris Conglis and his wife, Sophia Conglis, whom they met through a family member. Between the four of them and Nick Ponzio, they had decades of experience in the dining industry, and knew what they wanted to offer their customers.

“We took the old diner concept that was fading and combined it with the new scratch kitchen, organic methodology that is growing so big today,” Nick Ponzio said.

Chris Conglis describes the dining room atmosphere as “Mad Men” meets “The Jetsons.” The modern lighting and furniture combine with warm colors and plenty of seating.

One of the main concepts behind the joint venture is the chef-driven menu and quality ingredients. Nick Ponzio explains a fully organic menu would drive prices much higher than the current average meal, which is close to $10 depending on what you have a taste for. Even if the whole menu isn’t organic, it’s all still homemade.

“We focused on quality ingredients,” Nick Ponzio said.

They use organic eggs, antibiotic-free chicken and pasture-raised turkey. A crowd favorite is their maple butter made with pure maple syrup from Michigan.

Even thought the Kitchen Eatery opens at 7 a.m. every day, they do a lot more than breakfast. Nick Ponzio said bacon-wrapped meatloaf is as popular as breakfast options.

“It’s a comfort food driven menu,” Chris Conglis said.

Part of that means listening to customer feedback and providing what each customer considers comfort food. For some it’s the chorizo bowl with homemade salsa verde and for others it’s the turkey dinner. The Kitchen Eatery also began offering funnel cake – a suggestion from a patron.

“The good thing is we’ve been listening to what people are asking for,” said Nick Ponzio.

The Kitchen Eatery aims to serve the tastes of its customers so if they can cook a new dish that a patron requests, they’re happy to do so. It’s one of the perks Chef Jose Serrano sees with having the freedom to create his own dishes as opposed to working with a strict corporate menu.

“It’s good to know all of those different cuisines because then you can mix them,” said Serrano who has been working in restaurants since he was 15. He described the Kitchen Eatery as a unique venue where guests have a different experience than fast food or traditional diners offer.

“Our concept is more farm to table, obviously, but we’re a fusion of a little more upscale breakfast dining experience,” Serrano said.

While the restaurant focuses on bringing a new concept to the Elmhurst area that the owners don’t see in the surrounding prepared food options, the Kitchen Eatery relies on the same traditional hospitality of a local diner.

“We’re a family run business,” said Chris Conglis.

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