Some travel the world for fun, but others, like chef Isacco Vitali, travel the world so that they can share their experiences and love of food with others.
Vitali has cooked all over the world, but has taken his talents to the western suburbs at his very own restaurant, Isacco’s Kitchen, in St. Charles.
Vitali grew up in Milan, Italy, just an hour from Switzerland, where his family worked in the cattle industry. He started working as a butcher at a young age and first started cooking when he was 16.
After attending cooking school in San Pellegrino, Vitali moved to Scotland to attend college to study foreign languages.
“I really wanted to travel,” he says.
While in college, he continued to cook and work in restaurants. Following school, he moved to London, where he met a pastry chef who he worked with on a cruise ship. He traveled the world aboard the cruise liner for seven years. While working on the cruise ship, he also happened to meet his wife, Tracey, who was a passenger on the boat.
“I was doing a cooking demonstration, and we started talking,” Vitali says, adding that they hit it off immediately.
His wife is ultimately what brought Vitali to the Chicago area. After a couple of years of long-distance dating, the duo married in 2007.
Vitali took a job at Charlie Trotter’s in the city and dove headfirst into the Chicago food scene.
But, it didn’t take long before Vitali realized that he wanted to be his own boss. So, two years after getting married, he opened his own restaurant – Isacco Kitchen – in 2009. The restaurant could seat about 100 people, and it gained popularity for serving classic dishes at an affordable price.
“I wanted to help myself,” Vitali says. “I opened the restaurant because I wanted to make more sales with my knowledge and be my own businessman.”
After finding great success at his restaurant, Vitali opted to downsize and open something a little more personalized so that he could cater to each individual.
“I just kind of wanted to do a smaller menu with no mass production,” Vitali says. “I wanted more of a chef-to-table place.”
The new location opened in December 2015 and can seat 35 people. The new, more intimate space frees up enough time for Vitali to make homemade pasta and bread and serve seafood in season.
“I learned a lot from traveling,” Vitali says. “The menu is very contemporary. I like to [use] plenty of different ingredients.”
Despite the downsizing, Vitali still does catering, homemade pasta and sandwiches to go, and personalized chef visits.
But even with years of experience in the restaurant industry, Vitali still enjoys experimenting at home and trying new things in the kitchen.
“I like mixing and trying new recipes,” Vitali says. “I cook at home a couple of days a week.”
Vitali has his own vegetable garden at home that he often integrates into his cooking, but his favorite food still tends to be seafood.
“I like seafood,” Vitali says. “What I eat mostly depends on what is in season. I like to follow the seasons.”
When it comes down to it, Vitali says he just likes to cook for everyone around him.
“I love cooking at home for friends and family.”
If you go
Address: 131 S. First St. | St. Charles