John Merlo and 667 Vernon Ave. are back together again.
The Glencoe resident has opened Merlo’s in the same space he operated Dewey’s burger and hog dog shop from 2013-2015.
“I love it,” Merlo said of being back in downtown Glencoe. “The reason why I decided to come back to Glencie is I have kids who are not that young but in school and running around town. I love the idea of operating back in town and being close to home.”
The opening is also a reunion between Merlo and his Italian restaurant, Merlo’s, which was open in Highland Park for about seven years until its closure in 2019.
The new iteration at 667 Vernon Ave. enjoyed a soft opening on Feb. 21 and a more public reception on Friday, Feb. 24.
Laura Merlo — John’s wife who helps with “front-of-the-house” business and owns Reach Yoga across the street at 699 Vernon Ave. — said plenty of familiar faces have visited Merlo’s since its opening. Some of them have visited twice already and have future reservations.
“We’ve always wanted to reopen Merlo’s but we needed it to be the right place and right time,” she said. “(The space) became available quietly and we knew it was the perfect location.
“We had a nice, smooth start. Friendly faces, old and new. A lot of people from Highland Park couldn’t wait to come back and have their favorites.”
Laura Merlo said the restaurant’s menu is nearly the same as the Highland Park version but without the wood-fired pizzas — a casualty of space limitations, she said.
She called Merlo’s traditional Italian — “family-friendly, big portions.” The menu includes appetizers and five salads, as well as pastas such as homemade ravioli and Nanna’s Gravy (pot roast, red wine, crushed tomatoes tossed with rigatoni), and entrees like pork chop Calabrese (olive oil, lemon, Calabrese peppers) and chicken marsala (or piccata, Milanese and Parmesan).
Merlo’s also features an extensive wine list that pairs well with the bar in the space.
The new name on the awning is one of many to grace 667 Vernon Ave. this decade. John Merlo’s Dewey’s took over for Vernon’s on Vernon in 2013. When Dewey’s closed two years later, a new restaurant group tried Cibo Trattoria (2015-’16), then District (April-December 2016) and then Valor. Though rotating partners over time, Valor remained open until January of this year.
John Merlo took advantage once the space became available.
Not only does he believe it’s the right place, but also the right time.
“The restaurant business in the suburbs has blossomed so much post-COVID,” John Merlo said, mentioning active dining scenes in Wilmette and Winnetka. “It seems like suburban restaurants are thriving. … More diners who live up here are staying up here to go out. It’s a good environment to reopen.”
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