BATAVIA – A new Italian fusion restaurant is coming to Batavia, scheduled for a March 1 opening at 15 E. Wilson St., the former location of the Rhino Room.
Gaetano Di Benedetto, who owns Gaetano’s in Forest Park, and his family moved to Batavia last year and wanted to open a similar restaurant in his new town, his wife, Wendy Di Benedetto said.
“We moved to Batavia because I have a personal attachment here,” Wendy Di Benedetto said. “I spent my summers here with my aunt – who still lives here – playing with my cousins, riding horses on Raddant Road and the prairie path, swimming at the quarry and running through the cornfields. I have a great connection to Batavia.”
Di Benedetto said after some research, she found the Batavia schools had an excellent reputation for their three children to attend. Then they started looking around for good restaurants.
“We really need a good, upscale restaurant in this town in Batavia,” Di Benedetto said, as they considered opening one themselves. “But nothing fit, and we put our idea on the shelf.”
As soon as the Rhino Room was available to rent, they decided it would become a smaller version of their successful Forest Park restaurant, she said.
“We enjoyed Batavia so much with the farmers market, and we used to walk by that space all the time. And then it was available,” Di Benedetto said. “We knew right away it would work for us.”
The type of food her husband prepares will combine traditional fare from different regions of Italy, she said.
“He started cooking when he was a young boy in Italy,” Di Benedetto said. “He wanted to buy a guitar, and his father said he had to go to work. So he did, at 11 years old.”
Di Benedetto said for most Americans, Italian food means spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna – which is nothing like Italian food in Italy. Italian fusion is a blend of the regions, she said.
“He fuses food from Tuscany with food from Palermo. He would take something from Naples and blend it with Rome,” Di Benedetto said. “He is always very respectful of tradition. The slogan on our restaurant in Forest Park – and will be in Batavia – is ‘Fusion of the regions of Italy with respect to tradition.’ “
According to its website, www.gaetanos.us, Gaetano Di Benedetto was invited by the Italian delegate to serve as chef for Team Italy and the government dignitaries at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Di Benedetto teaches culinary art in both Italian and U.S. culinary colleges.
In 2010, he was named to the board of advisers of Chefs for Humanity, an alliance of culinary professionals in partnership with U.S. and global organizations working to reduce hunger.