It began with a holiday tradition. Bill Varley, Chef/Owner of Torchio Pasta Bar, would make fresh pasta with his niece, Maggie, every Christmas Eve at his Long Island, New York home. A simple comment from Maggie–“Uncle Billy, who doesn’t like pasta!”–would start this former engineer and executive on a 10-year journey with his wife Janice. It would culminate in the opening of Torchio Pasta Bar in the River North area of Chicago.
After falling in love with Chicago on business trips, the couple knew they would eventually call Chicago their home. During their search for the restaurant location, they discovered the vacant storefront of a building constructed in the early 1900s and knew it would be the perfect setting for the restaurant they had been imagining for almost a decade. Bill and Janice have jointly designed the space, revealing 100-year old brick, and building not only a pasta bar, but also the copper bar anchored by an 1880s over-mantel that Janice discovered at Architectural Artifacts in nearby Ravenswood.
Bill and Janice have travelled extensively throughout Italy, sampling the regional dishes of each place they visited and taking hands-on cooking classes in the homes of Italian “nonnas”. Two of Torchio’s menu items are adapted from their classes– Giovanna’s Bolognese is from the home of Giovanna Cardinali and her daughter in Bologna, the other is a Tiramisu recipe from Podere LaMarronaia in San Gimignano.
Another family member, Bill’s sister, Jolene, left Manhattan to join them in Chicago and has been instrumental in developing the dessert menu with Janice which features regional Italian desserts. Jolene, is a graduate of Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School (now the Institute of Culinary Education) and spent time as a baker at Sarabeth’s Restaurant in NYC and in the executive dining room at Gourmet magazine.
And the name of the restaurant? Bill was inspired by a vintage “Torchio” hand crank pasta press. Torchio which means “press” in Italian and is also a pasta shape resembling the base of a torch, or campane (“bell”) from the Abruzzo region of Italy. In fact, the torchio Bill used at home has been mounted on the back wall in the pasta bar area.
All of the pasta is made on premises, with the exception of gluten-free pasta, which is imported from Italy. Patrons will be able to watch the pasta being made and passerby will be able to peek in the window!
At Torchio Pasta Bar, pasta lovers of all ages can enjoy well-prepared, flavorful dishes featuring authentic Italian recipes with seasonal ingredients.
We look forward to welcoming you!