LA GRANGE – Tony Genna ordered 12 table clothes when he opened Antonino's on Hillgrove Avenue the first week of October in 1988.
All but one were used on the 11 tables at the restaurant, which continues to offer traditional Italian dishes inside a cozy corner spot with a white, red and green awning and checkered black-and-white floors. The other table cloth, Genna stashed in a box.
Earlier this month, as Genna prepared for Antonino's 25th anniversary, he found the old, unused red table cloth and decided to add a 12th table. Throughout the month, customers lucky enough to get seated at the lone non-green table received 15 percent off their meal.
Did Genna think the restaurant would make it to 25?
"I had no clue," he said. "Let me tell you, the first year, it was better than what I expected. It surpassed my expectations [of how much] people really enjoyed the food."
Allowing his customers to eat affordably has always been important to Genna.
"I don't like to increase prices on the menu," he said. "I haven't increased prices in about two to three years … I'm very sensitive to people's pocketbook. People have to eat."
The restaurant has maintained its promotions that help customers save a buck or two, such as giving them $2 off for bringing in their previous month's Metra train pass. Not surprisingly, the restaurant is popular with commuters at Stone Avenue Station.
Genna said the restaurant has kept customers through tough economic times because it still offers quality, homemade food – half of the recipes are from his Sicilian mother – at reasonable prices, noting that a glass of wine at Antonino's is half as much as other spots in town.
"We have our own niche," Genna said. "They can open up as many restaurants as they want downtown, and it's not going to affect me."
During the anniversary month, Genna brought in several live singers on weekend nights, which went over well with his customers. He'd never offered live music before, except for a previous Spanish dishwasher, Danielo, who would come out from the kitchen at about 8 p.m., sing for a bit and then go back to work.
Genna said he's considering bringing in live entertainment for the holidays. But the food, all of it made from scratch, will continue to be the restaurant's best selling point.
"Give people a good portion at a reasonable price, and they'll come back," Genna said.