The co-owner of a popular restaurant and jazz club along Madison Street won an approval from the zoning board last week to move ahead with plans for a new eatery that would be located just a few blocks west of his existing business.
On Dec. 18 Gaetano DiBenedetto sought the ZBA’s approval to expand the property at 7636 Madison St. and reduce the building’s available off-street parking by two spaces. The addition would accommodate a larger kitchen, DiBenedetto told board members. Despite the shortage of parking on Madison, the board found DiBenedetto’s request reasonable because of the small scale of the building.
“The chef has a location he is currently going into where there are four parking spaces in this building and with the extension he is seeking to put on, it would absorb part of two of those spaces,” Director of Public Health and Safety Michael Boyle said.
DiBenedetto is hoping to expand the back of the building to add space for a larger cooler. His overall goal, he said, is to operate a smaller restaurant with the atmosphere to match.
“I’m not looking to do a big place anymore,” DiBenedetto said. “I’m looking to do a top-notch quality place, bu t I need a very comfortable kitchen.”
This venture is the second for DiBenedetto in Forest Park. He is currently a chef and co-owner at La Piazza, located on Circle Avenue just south of Madison Street. With partner Robert Marani, DiBenedetto opened that restaurant in 2003 and quickly expanded the operation to include more tables in the main seating area, along with a basement jazz lounge that seats 60.
An apparent dispute over finances between Marani, who owns the building, and DiBenedetto has spilled over into court where Marani is seeking several thousand dollars in unpaid rent. According to court records, the two never had a formal lease agreement.
Both parties have declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding the case. Earlier this month, Marani said he could not speak to the future of La Piazza.
DiBenedetto will need to seek a final approval for his planned restaurant, which is located in the Downtown Business District, from the village council. He declined to say when the restaurant is expected to open.
“I’m excited, I think it’s going to be great and I think it will help the whole community and especially that part of Madison Street,” zoning board member Austin Zimmer said.