What They Say


Highland Park, ILL. - The wealthy string of suburbs along Lake Michigan north of Chicago, known as the North Shore, is seeing a spurt of new restaurants in a market that has been tough to master.

A couple of local restauranteurs who grew up on the North Shore recently opened unrelated casual restaurants with fine-dining sensibilities geared to their demanding neighbors. Since the restauranteurs are already familiar with the needs and tastes of the clientele, meeting those criteria has been less of a challenge for them than for outsiders who don't know the market nearly as well.

The two entrepreneurs are Gabriel Viti, proprieter of Miramar Bistro in Highwood, and Jim Lederer, a Highland Park native, owner of Bluegrass in that suburb, which borders Highwood. Both establishments are fresh concepts for the North Shore and are exceeding their owners' expectations after being open several months.

Viti, who also is chef-owner of the fine-dining Gabriel's just across the railroad tracks from Miramar, created a casual bistro that serves Mediterranean-style cuisine in a building he bought a few years ago. Named for a seaside Cuban town, Miramar is a lively late-night hangout for North Shore singles and couples who enjoy its vintage Havan-theme decor, Cuban cocktails and musical entertainment.

"There was no place to go for the bar-and-cigar crowd on the North Shore," said Viti, a Highwood native whose family came there about a century ago. "Now there is something going on here."

"I want to transport people to a vacation," Viti said. "it's a gift we give them. At 11:30 last Friday night, I saw a seafood tower and daiquiris on one of the tables. For a restauranteur that's what you want to see."

Despite Miramar's Cuban theme, the classically trained and well-traveled Viti chose to serve the French and Mediterranean cuisine he knows well. "Im not in love with Cuban dishes," he said. "You can only do black beans, yuca and plantains so much.

"There are a lot of Cuban dishes with pork, like stews, but I didn't feel like people would go for it. I love it in Havana, but it didn't feel like something that would translate to Highwood, " he explained...

© 2009 Gabriel Viti & Miramar Bistro

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