Geneva group's latest restaurant brings 'New American' to Naperville
The views are nearly panoramic. The food is seasonal, fresh, eclectic. The plants are alive, not plastic. The music comes through a German sound system "curated" by a DJ or a trained audio engineer.
Santo Cielo's name is in Spanish, but its food won't be Mexican when it opens May 2 at 123 Water St., Suite 509, on the fifth floor of the Hotel Indigo that anchors a 2.4-acre redevelopment that opened in late 2016.
That's a big departure for the restaurant group that got its start in 2007 with the tiny authentic Mexican spot, Bien Trucha, in Geneva, then added a toda madre in Glen Ellyn and last year opened Quiubo, also in Naperville's Water Street District.
The first three restaurants draw on Mexican influences from Chief Culinary Officer Ricardo Garcia-Rubio and his stepsons Julio Cano, chief business officer, and Rodrigo Cano, chief operations officer -- all of whom grew up in Mexico City. They have clever names, meaning "on top of your game," "totally awesome" and "what's up?" and they aim to step up a notch from basic Mexican food, Garcia-Rubio said.
"The main thing for us is to keep with the great flavors," he added.
But now Bien Trucha group, which also includes Chief Strategy Officer J.C. Gonzalez-Mendez and Chief Financial Officer Patrick Neary, wants to get "out of our comfort zone," Julio Cano says, and try something new.
The Cano brothers got started working in the restaurant business in their teens when Garcia-Rubio joined their family, and later came back from jobs in New York City and Los Angeles to rejoin the group as the restaurants grew. They've collaborated on design and menu development for Santo Cielo, which will be open 4 p.m. until midnight on weeknights and until 2 a.m. on weekends.
In a kitchen visible through windows, cooks at Santo Cielo will concoct dishes with flavors from Spain, Peru, Chile, Asia and the good old U.S.A.
"It's kind of like a new American," Garcia-Rubio said. "New American, you can cover whatever you want."
Santo Cielo's fifth-story location features furnishings in light gray, white and pale wood, along with windows that can roll down to make the space nearly open-air.
"There's a lot of light," Julio Cano said. "And the sunsets here are amazing."
The setting, with its elevated views of the DuPage River and downtown Naperville, inspired the name of "Good Heavens," Rodrigo Cano said.
So when Santo Cielo joins the rest of the Water Street businesses -- including Blue Sushi Sake Grill, Elements banquets, Plank Bar & Kitchen, Quiubo, Sixty-Four: A Wine Bar, Southern Tide clothing and Solaia Luxury Salon & Spa -- it aims to impress, leaders say.
"Here we wanted to do something different. It's about the experience -- not necessarily only about the food," said Gonzalez-Mendez, a former McDonald's executive. "The food is what brings you in, but what brings you back is the experience."