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Northern Italian roots infuse updated look, menu at La Buona Vita in La Grange

Luis Sanchez puts glue on wallpaper to finish the back room at La Buona Vita in La Grange.
Luis Sanchez puts glue on wallpaper to finish the back room at La Buona Vita in La Grange.

LA GRANGE – A familiar restaurant in La Grange is celebrating the new year with a fresh look, a revised menu and a delivery service, to entice new customers and give its regular diners a more relaxed experience.

La Buona Vita has been serving northern Italian fare made from scratch since its opening in 2014 when it took over the Marconi’s location at 15 W. Calendar Ave. in La Grange. Beginning this week, those roots will more closely align with the restaurant’s updated decor, logo and drink offerings, which will debut during its grand reopening extravaganza from Jan. 18 through 20.

“There’s a lot of competition in La Grange; you’ve got to stay fresh and new and on top of things,” said Terry Rempert, co-owner and executive chef of La Buona Vita. "We’re doing OK but want to do better. Part of that is to get the message across: We’re about northern Italian cooking and make everything in house – make our own pasta, meatballs and sausage. It’s part of a scratch kitchen. We try to buy at local markets. We felt the decor should match that.”

Lorenzini Interiors of Western Springs transformed the formal, continental look into a casual, rustic version of a northern Italian ristorante, by showcasing oak dining tables, solid wood floors, linen draperies, colorful ceramics and a barn door.

“They made a significant investment in this restaurant,” said Nancy Cummings, executive director of the La Grange Business Association. “They see this is a community worth investing in. They see the village and business community and residents support what they are doing. They are in the central business district of La Grange, between two train stops, with a big influx of commuters and residents.”

Rempert hopes to appeal to younger diners with the laid-back ambiance and additions to the menu, including 10 little-known craft beers directly from Italy and a bar menu that includes his twist on typical appetizer fare: Vesuvio wings, baked meatballs, warm olive platter, pork belly sliders. He’s even teamed up with Grubhub to offer convenient mobile and online ordering for pickup and delivery, which will begin in February, from the same extensive carryout menu La Buona Vita already has.

“Part of rebranding is to get people to try us. We offer some great weekly dishes, like tenderloin risotto, that aren’t regularly found at other places. We’re creating new pastas on a weekly basis that will change,” said Rempert, adding he has not altered his core dishes. “I have my standards week in and week out. We make our own meat ravioli, two different lasagnas, chicken Vesuvio, veal scallopini. Those are mainstays; that’s not going anywhere.”

Though the eatery has remained open for business, it will unveil the upgrades at a grand reopening that begins with a private reception Jan. 18 for La Grange officials and La Grange Business Association members.

From 4 to 11 p.m. Jan. 19 and 20, the public can savor the new vibe while enjoying 15-percent off, raffle prizes and entertainment from a Frank Sinatra impersonator.

Rempert said the new bar menu appetizers are about $12 and main menu pastas range from $14 to $26, depending on the meat, and include soup and salad with the meal. The restaurant is open for dinner Monday through Saturday.

“More people are eating out than 15 years ago. It’s made a big difference in people’s lifestyles. The restaurant community has responded to those changes,” Cummings said.

She described the updated La Buona Vita as “much more open, intimate, warmer, hipper, more contemporary."

"The food is excellent," Cummings said. "You can tell they make their own pastas right there on site.”


If you go

What: La Buona Vita

Where: 15 W. Calendar Ave., La Grange

Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Info:, 708-352-1621

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