South African spice coming to new Naperville restaurant

  • Nando's PERi-PERi, a new restaurant coming to downtown Naperville in the spring, offers chicken marinated in a South African spice and sides such as Portuguese rice and "Macho Peas."

    Nando's PERi-PERi, a new restaurant coming to downtown Naperville in the spring, offers chicken marinated in a South African spice and sides such as Portuguese rice and "Macho Peas." Courtesy of Nando's PERi-PERi

  • South African art decorates the walls of each Nando's PERi-PERi restaurant, as it will in Naperville when a location is expected to open this spring at 6 W. Jefferson Ave. Nando's specializes in chicken dishes, wraps, sandwiches and salads marinated in a South African spice called Bird's Eye Chili.

    South African art decorates the walls of each Nando's PERi-PERi restaurant, as it will in Naperville when a location is expected to open this spring at 6 W. Jefferson Ave. Nando's specializes in chicken dishes, wraps, sandwiches and salads marinated in a South African spice called Bird's Eye Chili. Courtesy of Nando's PERi-PERi

  • Nando's PERi-PERi, a Portuguese restaurant coming to Naperville in the spring, uses a South African spice to create a unique sauce as a marinade for its signature chicken.

    Nando's PERi-PERi, a Portuguese restaurant coming to Naperville in the spring, uses a South African spice to create a unique sauce as a marinade for its signature chicken. Courtesy of Nando's PERi-PERi

 
 
Updated 12/4/2015 9:44 AM

The spice comes from South Africa. The cooking style comes from Portugal. And the food is coming to Naperville.

Nando's PERi-PERi will open its first suburban restaurant next spring in downtown Naperville at the site of the former Rizzo's bar, which closed after a fire in July 2014.

 

"We are famous for our PERi-PERi chicken. PERi-PERi is African Bird's Eye Chili, which is our unique ingredient. It is spicy," Nando's spokesman Sepanta Bagherpour said. "Our signature dish is a spicy flame-grilled chicken dish. But you can choose your level of heat."

Lemon herb and mango lime sauces are for those who like to keep it mild, Bagherpour said. Then there's medium, hot, extra hot, and -- not even on the menu, but available for "huge Nando's addicts" if they ask -- extra, extra, extra hot.

Nando's operates 1,200 restaurants in 23 countries since opening its first in 1987 in South Africa. Its foray into the Chicago area began in May and the chain now has four locations in the city.

At its first suburban outpost in Naperville, Nando's is planning seating for 180 people in a space decorated with contemporary South African art.

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"We design each restaurant from the ground up," Bagherpour said. "It's going to be one-of-a-kind."

The Nando's menu features platters, wraps, sandwiches and salads all starring the PERi-PERi-steeped chicken, which is marinated for 24 hours. After getting a good soaking in PERi-PERi sauce, chicken is butterflied and flame-grilled. Sides include flame-grilled corn on the cob, Portuguese rolls, Portuguese rice, butternut squash, cucumber salad and a "Macho Peas" dish made with mashed peas, parsley, mint and chili.

The food and the setting both will be highlights for visitors when the restaurant opens at 6 W. Jefferson Ave., Bagherpour said.

"If they're interested in tasting authentic Southern African street food, served in a beautiful environment, give Nando's a try," he said.

Nando's also aims to connect with local charities and other eateries to join in the celebrations and freebies as the restaurant launches.

Bagherpour said Nando's bought coffee for a few days for customers at a shop next to one of its new Chicago restaurants and donated all proceeds of its first three days of sales to a nonprofit after-school program.

In Naperville, Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico said Nando's has asked for a liquor license, as it has some beers and South African and Portuguese wines on the menu. But it hasn't sought a late-night permit to continue serving drinks until 1 a.m. on weeknights and 2 a.m. on weekends. He said the restaurant will be a good addition to fill the vacancy created when Rizzo's failed to reopen after the fire.

"They're focused on food, which is what we want downtown," Chirico said.

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