In the know: Sean Eastwood

Michael Nagrant / 06.17.08

When chef Sean Eastwood launched Isabella’s Estiatorio, he rocked suburban Geneva with a touch of luxury and clean, locally sourced Mediterranean-style eats.  Now he’s poised to do the same on the Near West Side in July with Olo, which will feature wood-fired meats and fish and fresh-baked breads cooked in a brick oven.

Q. You’ve been very successful in Geneva.  Why come to the city?

A. To be in touch and have access to those farmers (from the local farmers market) that I can use all year ’round is great.  Plus I get to deal with farmers who come to the city weekly to deliver to the other restaurants here.  We’re not underestimating that in Chicago there are many fabulous restaurants, but I’m a firm believer that if you come in with a good attitude and plan to give your best, you’ll be successful.

Q. Olo sounds like it’ll have high-end food, but you won’t have to dress up to visit.

A. I think people’s attitude toward fine dining overall is changing, especially in the United States. People don’t want to have the whole fine-dining experience, but they still want to have great food. You can come to Olo for an anniversary or birthday, but you can also come for a bite at the bar.  I think chefs are finding that you don’t need to have the best crystal or best china on the table in order to offer the best food.  One of my favorite restaurants is Avec [615 W. Randolph] because you don’t need to dress up, but there’s great food.

Q. What’s your favorite hidden gem in Chicago?

A. The Spice House in Old Town on Wells [1512 N. Wells].

Q. If I were to come to your neighborhood, where would you insist I visit?

A. Vie in Western Springs, 4471 W. Lawn, and the Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois 53 in Lisle.

Q. As a British native, what do you think of Gordon Ramsay (of “Hell’s Kitchen”)?

A. One of my friends had an opportunity to work for him after culinary school.  He’s hands down one of the celebrity chefs who deliver.  There is a lot of hype that goes on as well.  There are a lot of things made for television, so to speak.  He’s a fierce man in the kitchen, but most Michelin starred chefs are.  Excellence doesn’t come easy.

Q. What do you eat and drink before ot after a shift?

A. Flatbread and dates at Avec.

Q. What’s the can’t-miss dish at Olo?

A. Lamb shank tagine with apricot bulgar wheat, toasted slivered almonds and julienne of cured Meyer lemon.

Q. What should we know about Olo that we probably don’t?

A. We went through more than 200 names before we settled on Olo.  The meaning behind Olo is unique, as the letters stand for the three cornerstone ingredients of Mediterranean cuisine:  olives, lemons and oregano.  Olo is home to a traditional Mugnaini wood-fired oven, which was imported directly from Italy, assembled on site at Olo, and is one of only a handful to be found in the United States today.  The Olo menu offers a special “From the Wood Fired Oven” section dedicated to the wood-fired specialties, including Olo’s signature flatbreads.

Olo; 1152 W. Randolph St., Chicago (312) 733-0573