When Danielle Papakanelou and Fernando Isopo hung a “coming soon” sign on the storefront at 4655 N. Lincoln Ave. last spring (former home of Cafe Neo), the partners in Le Cafe fully intended to open by April.
“Originally, I just wanted to redo the counter top,” says Papakanelou, a French Pastry School grad who envisioned the space as a showcase for her desserts. Instead the place required near gutting, and the addition of a kitchen hood for cooking slowed the permit process.
“Financially, it’s been tough,” she says. Papakanelou and Isopo–who will handle buying and the front of the house–kicked in their own money, which ran out in April, and have been paying rent with the help of an investor. “I just want to sell a cupcake.”
Come Sept. 19, she’ll get her wish: Le Cafe is finally ready for customers. Patrons can expect a menu filled not only with pastries (many of them gluten-free or vegan) but breakfast sandwiches, crepes, paninis and a daily special, with an emphasis on fresh, organic and local ingredients.
Isopo, poached by Papakanelou from her father’s operation at Cermak Produce, anticipates shopping for produce at Lincoln Square’s farmers markets. “It’s right here in the neighborhood,” he says.
Papakanelou, who grew up at Western and Devon, remembers when the Square was home to a thriving Greek community and will revive a bit of that heritage by also serving up spinach pie and other traditional items. She hopes to create a vibe along the lines of Greek coffee hour–not too pretentious or uptight (so long WiFi limits).
“I’m very easygoing,” she says. “We want it to be a very relaxed atmosphere.”
Papakanelou earned her stripes at Sweet Sensations Pastry (1918 W. Montrose Ave.), where she spent six months as a prep person under owner and pastry chef Sharin Nathan.
“I feel like the more the merrier,” says Nathan, who wishes her former employee success in her new venture. “I love going to see what other people are doing. It kind of feeds your juices.”
Le Cafe’s hours (once open): Mon.-Thur., 6 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Fri., 6 a.m. – midnight; Sat., 7 a.m. – midnight; Sun., 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
The latest outpost of Frill Accessory Boutique is open at 4764 N. Lincoln Ave.
Jack & Ginger’s Dog Care, 2559 W. Lawrence Ave., held its grand opening over the weekend. Owners Andrea Giuffre and Lester Palmiano aim to become a visible anchor for businesses south on Rockwell and have already made friends with the folks at Monti’s restaurant (4757 N. Talman Ave.), who brought over a helping of pretzel bites as a housewarming gift. Since announcing the shop last winter, the partners have been stymied by construction and financing delays and in the interim, a competing business–VIP, Very Important Pooches–hung out a sign near Lawrence and California, though no permits have been issued, according to Giuffre. She’s hoping Jack & Ginger’s boutique operation, which offers a combination of day care and grooming services, will win over customers with its smaller scale, pricing intended to encourage repeat business and her experience as a veterinary technician. “I’m just glad to be open.”