Alex Dana: Chicago’s Restaurant Dynasty

28 Nov

Alex Dana is the son of Italian and Greek immigrants, Dana grew up in the restaurant business in Chicago and has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. His critically acclaimed eateries put smiles on thousands of guest daily. Many observers credit the Rosebud with revitalizing the old Italian neighborhood around the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Rosebud History

In 1973, Alex Dana, a 26 year-old Chicago native with rich Italian culture, purchased a Chicago Loop luncheonette. Piccadilly also called “333” after its physical address on west Washington Street did quite well. However, Piccadilly’s success wasn’t enough for young Dana. He had a much larger vision: a full-service restaurant offering great food, excellent service and warm hospitality from early in the morning to late at night. Coming from a family of restaurant owners it came as no surprise that a Chicago legend was in the making.

In 1977, a prospective property in line with Dana’s larger vision became available. Alex saw an opportunity to purchase a run-down building housing an Italian Men’s’ Supper Club, in an area we now know as Chicago’s Little Italy. This is where “The Rosebud” was born.

Originally called Bocciola della Rosa (bud of the rose), after Sicily’s native flower, the name was translated into English when patrons repeatedly struggled to pronounce the Italian name. Signature dishes, such as Chicken Vesuvio and Pappardelle (square noodles) became staples, and The Rosebud became a favorite of popular celebrities, including Robert DeNiro, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra (pictured top left), not to mention Carol Burnett, Jim Belushi (pictured top right), Robert Redford and Jimmy Buffett. Naturally, a gallery of autographed celebrity photos was created, and continues to grow to this day.

In 1992, Dana found an aging, yet beautiful building on Rush Street, just one block from the trendy Michigan Avenue, here was born: Rosebud on Rush. The restaurant was an instant hit among Chicagoans and visiting celebrities alike.

In 1994, Rosebud’s continued success allowed Alex a third location just five blocks up Rush Street: Carmine’s. This was the first departure from the use of the Rosebud name for a Dana restaurant. Offering two levels of dining, a bustling bar, live entertainment and an outdoor cafe for unrivaled people watching – Carmine’s became an instant celebrity in its own right.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Dana sought expansion outside the city limits. Naperville, just 32 miles southwest of the city, became home to Rosebud’s first suburban location. Around the same time, Rosebud Theater District (FKA “La Rosetta”) opened in Chicago’s financial and theater center.

Three years after opening in Naperville and Chicago’s Theater District, Alex was ready for his second departure from the city limits. In 2000, Rosebud of Highland Park opened with an emphasis on family, value and great food.

The new millennium also brought about a new concept for the Rosebud name. The Rosebud Steakhouse – A Rare Steakhouse, Well Done — opened on Walton Street. Thus, the magic that is Rosebud continued. This time with tuxedoed waiters, a 28-ounce Chicago-Cut bone-in filet and “The Best Burger” in town, as voted on by Chicago Tribune readers.

A few years later, Dana was in the mood for something different. Combining a high end Italian restaurant with a fun loving lounge atmosphere, the corner of Dearborn and Illinois in Chicago’s trendy River North neighborhood became Rosebud Trattoria (FKA Ballo). Dana transformed the former 50′s style diner into a sleek and sophisticated dining spot with a lounge like feel offering something for everyone.

After the success of eight restaurants, Dana had another idea. He wanted to offer diners the most beloved, best selling dishes from all of his locations together under one roof. He wanted customers to have the opportunity to enjoy sausage and peppers from The Rosebud on Taylor Street, Mama’s Meatballs from Rosebud Trattoria and Linguine with Clams from Carmine’s all on one menu. In May of 2007 the ideal setting presented itself and he opened Rosebud Old World Italian in the Northwest suburb of Schaumburg.

Not much time passed after opening his third suburban location, and Dana was back in the city impressing customers yet again. In July 2007 he opened Rosebud Prime, a lavish dining oasis amidst the finest entertainment venues and steps away from the heart of the loop. The second steakhouse under the Rosebud umbrella, Rosebud Prime combines impeccable service, a sophisticated atmosphere and the finest selection of steaks, seafood and chops.

In 2009, Dana decided to make a change to Rosebud of Naperville. In operation for over 10 years, it was time to make a transformation, and the restaurant became Rosebud Italian Specialties & Pizzeria. The new concept provided an updated perspective on Italian cuisine. The menu changed weekly, focused on regional dishes using fresh ingredients, thin crust, Chicago-style pizzas served from a traditional deck style oven became a popular hit. The ultimate goal at Rosebud Italian Specialties and Pizzeria is to provide customers with two distinct dining options: a more casual, family friendly pizzeria and an upscale, white table cloth dining room.

It’s been an exciting journey for Alex Dana and Rosebud. Today, ten restaurants including two steakhouses, eight white table cloth Italian concepts and a robust private event and catering service are proudly under the Rosebud umbrella. Each restaurant fills a unique niche within the community and upholds the highest standards for fine cuisine and superior wine selections.

What’s Next:

Rosebud owner plans late-night comfort food spot in River North
New eatery will feature baked goods in the morning, comfort foods at lunch & dinner, and a kitchen open past midnight

Crain’s Chicago Business :: Eddie Baeb :: March 29, 2010 :: View Original Article :: Bookmark and Share

(Crain’s) — Rosebud Restaurants Inc. is planning a new eatery in River North that will feature fresh-made baked goods in the morning, comfort foods at lunch and dinner and a kitchen that will be open well past midnight.

The café, dubbed Eatt, is under construction and is slated to open by June at 6 W. Hubbard St., the longtime home of Vong’s Thai Kitchen, a popular Lettuce Entertain You Inc. restaurant that closed in December when its lease was up.

The concept is loosely modeled after European cafes that are open for breakfast – where diners often grab bread or pastries to go – and then cater to lunchtime, dinnertime and bar-time crowds, says Rosebud owner Alex Dana. Eatt will stay open until either 2 a.m. or 4 a.m.

The location, at the corner of Hubbard and State Street, should work well for a late-night eatery because of the numerous nightclubs and bars nearby, according to Phil Mott, a professor at Chicago-based Kendall College’s School of Hospitality Management.

“Chicago has certainly become a nightclub city, much more than it used to be,” Mr. Mott says. “You can only go to the Wieners Circle so many times.”

Rosebud, which is best known for upscale Italian restaurants and steakhouses, is looking to capitalize on the popularity of the Hubbard Street area for diners and club-goers. Mr. Dana says he also expects Eatt’s fare, items such as short ribs, hamburgers and tuna sandwiches, to play well in a difficult economy.

“It’s going to be a little higher-end comfort food with a real heavy value to the portions,” says Mr. Dana, whose Chicago-based Rosebud has 11 locations in the city and suburbs, including a Rosebud Trattoria in River North at 445 N. Dearborn St.

Mr. Dana first tested some elements of the comfort-food menu last year in west suburban Naperville, where he overhauled the menu of the Rosebud there to focus on items like hamburgers, chicken in a basket, ribs and hot dogs. The experiment lasted only about six months though, as an outcry from the locals for the old Rosebud menu prompted Mr. Dana to reverse course.

He says the comfort food was well-received, though the family-oriented Naperville crowd was more interested in having Rosebud’s traditional Italian menu than they were in paying upwards of $8 for a burger.

“Sometimes you’re not as smart as everybody thinks you are, and you’ve got to be willing to eat a little crow,” Mr. Dana says. “The town was so caught up with our Italian culinary, they didn’t want to hear about burgers. They wanted their spaghetti back.”

That’s partly why Eatt will have its own, distinct brand separate from Rosebud, Mr. Dana says. He also thinks the River North location is well-positioned for the concept because of the tourist crowd along with nearby bars, restaurants and hotels.

“That location is so hot. There’s so much foot traffic,” he says. “There are a lot of people in the (restaurant) industry who work late and want a place to eat after work. There are all the people in their hotels. They don’t want to eat in their rooms.”

The challenge with such an operation is to be consistent from breakfast to lunch to late night, says Kendall College’s Mr. Mott. The benefit, he says, is the late hours generate higher sales volume at little additional costs — which helps overcome the high rents now being commanded for such prime real estate.

“It’s a really interesting concept, and it can work,” he says. “But I haven’t seen a lot of people do it well.”

Rosebud Italian Country House and Pizzeria:

Alex Dana’s Newest Restaurant

A GROWING EMPIRE

The newest addition to the Rosebud family, Rosebud Italian Country House & Pizzeria serves up the home-style Italian dishes that Rosebud is known for, seven days a week. Choose from fresh pizzas hot from the oven that are big enough to share and are sure to be enjoyed by the little ones. Our famous handmade Square Noodles are always a favorite, or try a flavorful steak, chicken or seafood specialty, all prepared with the utmost passion. For those with special dietary needs, low glycemic, gluten-free, and whole wheat pastas are available upon request.

ITALIAN, AT ITS BEST

Classics like the Sausage & Peppers Appetizer or crispy “Brick Chicken” entrée paired with a handcrafted cocktail from our fully stocked bar will give you a true Italian dining experience you won’t soon forget. Combining friendly staff, an inviting atmosphere, and traditional cuisine, Rosebud Italian Country House & Pizzeria provides a relaxing escape where everyone is treated like family.

Pictures from Rosebud

Rosebud founder and owner, Alex Dana, with his good friend and Rosebud regular, Tony Bennett
Rosebud founder and owner, Alex Dana, with his good friend and Rosebud regular, Tony Bennett
Mel Gibson loves Rosebud!
Mel Gibson loves Rosebud!
Olympic Gold Medalist, Evan Lysacek, with Rosebud President, Joe Ahern
Olympic Gold Medalist, Evan Lysacek, with Rosebud President, Joe Ahern
Evan Lysacek brought his Gold home to the Rosebud in Naperville
Evan Lysacek brought his Gold home to the Rosebud in Naperville
Rosebud founder and owner, Alex Dana, with Chicago-born actor, Jim Belushi
Rosebud founder and owner, Alex Dana, with Chicago-born actor, Jim Belushi
Country music legend, Dolly Parton
Country music legend, Dolly Parton
U2’s Bono celebrating his birthday at Rosebud on Rush, but he’s a Carmine’s regular!
U2’s Bono celebrating his birthday at Rosebud on Rush, but he’s a Carmine’s regular!
NY Yankees’ Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter at Rosebud on Rush with GM, Dino Mazzei
NY Yankees’ Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter at Rosebud on Rush with GM, Dino Mazzei
Rosebud founder and owner, Alex Dana, with basketball legend, Michael Jordan
Rosebud founder and owner, Alex Dana, with basketball legend, Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan celebrating his birthday at The Rosebud on Taylor Street
Michael Jordan celebrating his birthday at The Rosebud on Taylor Street
Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose at Carmine’s with GM, Eddie Perocevic
Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose at Carmine’s with GM, Eddie Perocevic
"Yo Alex! The Best." -Jay Leno
“Yo Alex! The Best.” -Jay Leno
Alex Dana with the one and only, Frank Sinatra and Tom Dreesen
Alex Dana with the one and only, Frank Sinatra and Tom Dreesen
Actor Dennis Farina with Alex Dana and comedian, Tom Dreesen
Actor Dennis Farina with Alex Dana and comedian, Tom Dreesen
Cleveland Cavs’ Lebron James at Rosebud on Rush with GM, Dino Mazzei
Cleveland Cavs’ Lebron James at Rosebud on Rush with GM, Dino Mazzei
Meg Ryan, Dennis Quaid, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson
Meg Ryan, Dennis Quaid, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson
Brooke Shield hanging out at Rosebud
Brooke Shield hanging out at Rosebud
To Rosebud – With Thanks, Barry Manilow
To Rosebud – With Thanks, Barry Manilow
George Clooney
George Clooney
When Joe Torre is in town, he’s definitely dining at Rosebud!
When Joe Torre is in town, he’s definitely dining at Rosebud!
Chicago Bears’ running back, Chester Taylor, at Carmine’s with GM, Eddie Perocevic
Chicago Bears’ running back, Chester Taylor, at Carmine’s with GM, Eddie Perocevic
Tony Bennett with the Sun Times’ Bill Zwecker
Tony Bennett with the Sun Times’ Bill Zwecker
Rosebud General Manager Dino Mazzei with Rosebud regular Tony Bennett
Rosebud General Manager Dino Mazzei with Rosebud regular Tony Bennett
GM Dino Mazzei, Tony Bennett and Alex Dana – one big, happy Rosebud family!
GM Dino Mazzei, Tony Bennett and Alex Dana – one big, happy Rosebud family!
Rich Clune and Wayne Simmonds of the LA Kings
Rich Clune and Wayne Simmonds of the LA Kings
Rosebud regular, Robert Conrad
Rosebud regular, Robert Conrad
Chicago born and raised NBA all-star, Dwyane Wade, with Rosebud GM, Dino Mazzei
Chicago born and raised NBA all-star, Dwyane Wade, with Rosebud GM, Dino Mazzei
Danny Aiello, George Hamilton and Robert Conrad at the original Rosebud on Taylor Street
Danny Aiello, George Hamilton and Robert Conrad at the original Rosebud on Taylor Street
Wesley Snipes enjoyed his time at Carmine's, so he left us a note
Wesley Snipes enjoyed his time at Carmine’s, so he left us a note
The Gipsy Kings
The Gipsy Kings
Baseball legend and Rosebud regular, Tom Lasorda
Baseball legend and Rosebud regular, Tom Lasorda
Tommy Lasorda is a real Rosebud fan – he even talks about us when he’s interviewed!
Tommy Lasorda is a real Rosebud fan – he even talks about us when he’s interviewed!
Tony award-winning actor, Joe Mantegna
Tony award-winning actor, Joe Mantegna
Singer and actor, Frankie Avalon, can be found dining at Rosebud when he’s in town
Singer and actor, Frankie Avalon, can be found dining at Rosebud when he’s in town
Fashion designer, Bob Mackie, with Rosebud founder, Alex Dana
Fashion designer, Bob Mackie, with Rosebud founder, Alex Dana
Director, producer and actor, Peter Bogdanovich, enjoying a Rosebud meal
Director, producer and actor, Peter Bogdanovich, enjoying a Rosebud meal
To Joe: "It's never been better!" -The Wonder Years
To Joe: “It’s never been better!” -The Wonder Years

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: