Marchesa Makes Its Mark in River North

By J.P. Anderson | May 11, 2018 | Food & Drink

With Marchesa, a veteran dining duo brings European elegance (and a touch of whimsy) to River North.


Marchesa’s culinary tour through Europe includes tempting fare like classic scallop dish coquilles St. Jacques (Photo by Anthony Tahlier)

If the walls of 535 N. Wells could talk, they’d have plenty of juicy stories of the past 100 years, from gin-soaked nights as a jazz club to 15 years as chef Suzy Crofton’s Michelin-starred dining spot Crofton on Wells. Now, after a quiet few years, the space is back and buzzing as Marchesa, an art-filled restaurant and lounge on three lavishly decorated floors.

It’s the brainchild of dining and nightlife veterans Kathryn Sullivan Alvera and Jason Clark (Narcisse, Prosecco), and their sophisticated stamp is all over it, from the eclectic, fine art-filled decor inspired by the Peggy Guggenheim Museum to the menu, which envisions a “culinary tour through Europe” by 20th-century bonne vivante Marchesa Luisa Casati. It all adds up to an atmosphere that feels refreshingly grown-up for the neighborhood but also, like the Marchesa herself, decidedly unstuffy.

“Like Jason always says,” Sullivan Alvera notes, “we’re welcoming people into our home every night, for a simple glass of wine or a full three-course dinner. It’s just good food, good service, good ambiance.”

That ambiance extends to the downstairs Cave, a sexy, clubby space where DJs spin and cocktails flow, and the second-floor Apartment, whose refined surroundings welcome private events and the occasional opera performance. Come alfresco season, the scene will flow out to the sidewalk with four primo tables among lush greenery, and a tented back patio will beckon with vintage carpets, palms and billowing drapes, all but ensuring 535 N. Wells’ return to must-visit status once more.

“It’s a little neighborhood historical institution,” says Sullivan Alvera affectionately, “and now we get to be the caretakers of it. That’s very exciting.” 535 N. Wells St., 312.527.9535

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