First-time restaurateur to open Italian eatery in Gurnee

  • Mexican American immigrant Juan Ayala worked in Italian restaurants for more than 20 years and now is gearing up to open his own on Milwaukee Avenue in Gurnee in the former Bodega Grill location.

      Mexican American immigrant Juan Ayala worked in Italian restaurants for more than 20 years and now is gearing up to open his own on Milwaukee Avenue in Gurnee in the former Bodega Grill location. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/25/2023 6:32 AM

After working in Italian restaurants for more than 20 years, Juan Ayala plans to open his own eatery soon in Gurnee.

Olivia's Italian Restaurant will serve pasta, chicken, fish and other Italian staples for lunch and dinner every day of the week.

 

Ayala said the menu isn't set yet. But the restaurant will probably offer a few steak options as well as classic appetizers such as bruschetta and fried calamari.

The plan is to open the restaurant next month at 750 S. Milwaukee Ave., between Interstate 94 and Route 120. The space has been vacant since the previous tenant, Bodega Grill & Wine Lounge, closed in 2016.

Ayala said the building's owner recently rehabbed the space, so it was already in pretty good shape when he started work there around three months ago.

Juan Ayala plans to open an Italian restaurant in the former Bodega Grill space on Milwaukee Avenue in Gurnee.
  Juan Ayala plans to open an Italian restaurant in the former Bodega Grill space on Milwaukee Avenue in Gurnee. - Paul Valade | Staff Photographer
by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Village leaders approved Ayala's petition for a liquor license earlier this week. A Mexican American immigrant, Ayala named the restaurant after his mother, Olivia Cobian. He said she shares his love for Italian food and often cooked it for their family. Ayala said she was honored to have inspired the name.

He is hopeful his mother can make it up from Mexico for the restaurant's grand opening as she hasn't been able to visit in a year and a half because of her health.

"She can't wait for us to open," Ayala said.

Go to comments: 0 posted
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.