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Two Chicago restaurant operators see a future in downtown Joliet

Juliet's should open by October

Published: Thursday, July 24, 2014 11:19 p.m. CDT

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JOLIET – Two Chicago restaurateurs are looking to downtown Joliet for their next ventures.

Carmen Rossi, a Frankfort attorney who owns five restaurants in the city, as well as a sixth in Evanston, hopes to open Juliet’s at 205 N. Chicago St., in the same building formerly used by The Department.

“I’m hoping to open by the fall,” Rossi said. “I can’t imagine it would be later than October.”

P.J. Zonis, a self-described “metal head” and co-owner of Lockdown Bar & Grill in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village, is developing a second heavy metal-themed restaurant at Chicago and Cass streets in the building that housed the failed Crabigale’s comedy club.

Zonis said he hopes to start construction on his new venue by Oct. 1.

The two join a growing list of young entrepreneurs investing in downtown Joliet, including Josh Schaub, co-owner of the Joliet Slammers, and Mark and Chris Czarnowski, who are developing three buildings, including a pinball arcade at 215 N. Chicago St.

Proud of his roots

Rossi, son of former Frankfort mayor and current Will County Judge Ray Rossi, said he was a big fan of The Department. He couldn’t pass up the opportunity when the space became available.

“I genuinely enjoy the hospitality industry, and I want this to be a special project because I am very proud of my roots in Will County,” said Rossi, a Lincoln-Way High School graduate.

Rossi said Juliet’s will be a casual dining and sports bar featuring three different themes.

“It’ll be a sports bar when you first walk in,” Rossi said. Juliet’s will feature its own bar menu of classic America pub food.

Further in will be a separate casual dining area, featuring an Italian-inspired menu of pizzas, pastas and steak along with a mix of small plates and entrees.

Finally, the upstairs will be converted into a separate private dining area with its own bar, Rossi said. He said the upstairs, which includes an outdoor patio, is capable of providing intimate service for private parties of up to about 100 patrons.

The upstairs bar also will feature an extensive wine display and rack, including 12 wines on tap, Rossi said.

Rossi in Chicago has the Hubbard Inn,Barn & Company, Lincoln Avenue Social and the soon-to-open Pomp & Circumstance.

Beer, burgers and music

Zonis said he is passionate about two things: food and music.

“Basically I love the restaurant business and I am a big metal head,” Zonis said.

Zonis and partner David Jacobs opened Lockdown in 2008 at 1024 N. Western Ave, Chicago. The bar is “saturated with television screens... [offering] the very best metal and hard rock concerts ever recorded,” according to the restaurant’s website.

The bar features a huge variety of craft beers, along with a menu of gourmet burgers, home cut fries and other sides.

The bar is located near The Empty Bottle, a music venue and bar. Zonis said concertgoers are a big part of his business.

Zonis hopes to develop the same kind of synergy with MoeJoes of Joliet, 22 W. Cass St., a club featuring an eclectic variety of musical acts.

A graduate of the University of St. Francis, Zonis is familiar with Joliet.

“I had to have one corner and one corner only,” Zonis said. “I couldn’t get excited about opening up at the mall or anywhere else. But that corner right there by MoeJoe’s really got me excited.”

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