‘Pasta Bocelli’ result of chef’s faith
Vito Barbanente, owner of Pescatore Palace in Franklin Park, stands in the room at his restaurant named for Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli, who has dined there. | Maryann Pisano
Updated: January 21, 2013 3:04PM
Vito Barbanente, chef and owner of Pescatore Palace, is a true believer.
“I knew I was going to meet him because I had faith,” he said.
“Him” is the famous Italian opera singer, Andrea Bocelli. Barbanente has been friends with Bocelli for over 10 years. He believes that their friendship was formed through his faith in believing it would happen.
Barbanente has owned Pescatore Palace (located at 3400 North River Road, Franklin Park) for the past 36 years. Barbanente decided to write a letter to Bocelli while he was on tour in 1999. “I invited him to my restaurant, but he never responded to my letter,” he said. Barbanente never gave up. He knew that one day Bocelli would visit his restaurant and enjoy his authentic Italian dishes. In 1999, Bocelli performed at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. Barbanente went to the concert and waited for Bocelli after the show. Although Bocelli’s management team said he had left, Barbanente knew better. “I knew I was going to meet him,” he said. “I told my wife, ‘where’s your faith?’ ”
Moments later, Bocelli’s management team told Barbanente that Bocelli “ho fame” (hungry in Italian) and he wanted to dine at Pescatore Palace.
“I quickly called the restaurant and told them that Andrea was coming,” Barbanente said. As fate would have it, Bocelli remembered Barbanente from his letter. “He thought the meal was so delicious that he made his private jet wait,” Barbanente said. While dining, Andrea told his wife at the time, “Let them wait. I am enjoying my dinner.”
Shortly after Bocelli’s visit, Barbanente created a private room at Pescatore called none other than the “Bocelli Room.” The room consists of inspirational pictures of Bocelli and quotes from his lyrics. The room can host up to 25 people. He also has dedicated a special pasta dish on his menu called, Pasta Bocelli. The dish’s ingredients are some of Bocelli’s favorites; farfalle pasta, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, shrimp and scallops. Barbanente combines them together to form a delicious symphony of flavors.
Their friendship has grown as the years have passed. It has grown so much, that in 2006 Barbanente visited Bocelli at his home in Tuscany, Italy. “We were able to enjoy his wine, take a tour of his vineyard and spend time at his family’s home. It truly was a memorable experience,” Barbanente explained. Bocelli’s wine is available in the United States, and soon will be sold at Pescatore. ~.
On December 2, 2012, Bocelli found himself back in Chicago to perform at the Allstate Arena once again. Barbanente had the privilege of hosting Bocelli at Pescatore on December 1, the night before his concert. Bocelli described the experience and food, as “excellente.” Barbanente told him, “this food is going to make you strong for tomorrow’s show.”
That evening, Bocelli also surprised 20 lucky women dining in the Bocelli Room. These women had flown to Chicago from around the world just to see Bocelli’s concert. “They were screaming and crying,” Barbanente said. “One of the ladies listened to his music while enduring chemotherapy, so meeting him was very emotional for her. Another lady had seen him in concert 39 times and never had the pleasure to meet him until that night.” A night that will always be remembered!
Barbanente plans to see Bocelli again this summer when he travels back to Italy. He describes Bocelli as kind, warm, and incredibly humble. “Faith, that’s what it’s all about,” Barbanente said. “Without faith, there isn’t anything to believe in.”~.