Welcome to ‘Locales’, a series that highlights vendors, businesses, and organizations who stand out in their respective communities through their passion and purpose.
May we introduce you to: Pennyville Station
When you first sit down with Tony and Samantha Antonacci, you immediately recognize two people who have spent a lifetime supporting each other. Their playful, natural rapport as a couple is evident, and the pride they take in raising their family together can be seen from miles away.
But the carefree and considerate bond they share also reflects two individuals who have been through all of the weight, pressure, and stress that come with committing fully to your dreams. Luckily, they have come out clean on the other side, together.
“It was a hefty mix of pride and panic,” Sam laughs, when asked about her immediate reaction to the news that her husband had finally decided to open his own restaurant. “But I believed in him, so I was supportive of his dream from day one.”
Tony Antonacci grew up in the restaurant industry. His family owned the beloved Edison Park bistro Basta Pasta, which he would manage for years alongside his father, Tino. He would also go on to spend nearly a decade at the popular American steakhouse Tavern on Rush in downtown Chicago.
But despite all of his success, there was always one glaring problem — he wasn’t satisfied cooking someone else’s menu.
“I’ve always loved food, always loved going out to eat. But I’ve continually had this dream in my head of the restaurant I wanted to create, where everything on the menu is some representation of one of my favorite dishes. If I was going to open my own place, I wanted to cook the kind of food and serve the kind of drink that made me happy.”
And that is how Pennyville Station came to be, first opening its doors to the public in downtown Park Ridge on May 31. So far, it has been an undeniable success; the food and drink menus have been widely praised, and they’ve recently expanded their hours to include brunch. The location’s decor has also been applauded — it is the work of local Park Ridge mom and designer Kristen Massucci. “That’s how I knew we were on to something” Tony states confidently. “Sam and I actually met Kristen for the first time at Lollapalooza! Here I am in the middle of one of the biggest concert events in the world, and I meet a Park Ridge designer who immediately understood what I was going for, aesthetically. It was like it was meant to be.”
The unique and eclectic menus were created by Tony himself, featuring nothing but “clean” food — sustainable farm ingredients, all antibiotic and hormone-free. He then challenged his head chef, Jose ‘Mosquito’ Alvarez (who he brought over from Tavern on Rush) to help make it happen.
The food is farm-to-table (items on the menu that are tagged come from locations within 100 miles), and the menu itself has been described as “New American”. But with only 18 items that are constantly evolving and changing, Tony uses his own simple phrase to capture it. “It’s…a little different. There’s a lot of meat. I’m always experimenting and trying new things.”
With that statement, Sam jumps in with a behind-the-scenes story. “We kept getting food delivered to the house, and I’d be so excited to get a package! Then I’d open the door, and it turns out, it was…meat. Again.”
Sam Antonacci is one of d’aprile properties own, a successful real estate agent serving Park Ridge and the surrounding communities. With three girls ages 13, 10, and 7 at home, she and her husband team up to ensure both get the time they need to succeed in their individual careers. “Opening Pennyville was a lot of hard work, but it has also provided so many advantages. He takes the girls to the restaurant during the day during prep, and they cook breakfast together. That gives Mom the quiet time she needs to work on her real estate business.”
Owning a popular local restaurant, which only helps ingrain you within a tight-knit community like Park Ridge, doesn’t hurt either. “They say it takes a village, and I have a fantastic support system around me. If I need to show a home or attend an inspection on short notice, I have my family, and other moms in the area, who support me. Plus, I have access to a lot of coffee. And maybe just a little wine.”
In the end, while Tony and Samantha have succeeded by doing things their own way, they know they have the people of Park Ridge to thank for their success. “This is the community we live in, that we’re proud to be a part of. The feedback has been great, and more and more people stop by everyday to talk about what a great thing we’re doing here. I made this place what I wanted it to be. But if my vision doesn’t consistently satisfy my patrons, then I’m not doing it right.”
If there is any doubt about Tony’s commitment to customer service, just ask him about his service model. “It’s simple. The answer is yes. Now what is the question?”