An exercise in simplicity: Perfectly cooked spaghetti with tomato, shaved garlic, chilies and Parmigiano Reggiano. Melissa Elsmo | Food editor

Part restaurant, part production kitchen, part grocery, part culinary campus — Fiore Pizzeria and Bakery has already made its presence known in Forest Park. The former home of Francesca’s Fiore, 7407 Madison St., boasts a new coat of bright white paint and eye- catching red trim. Still affiliated with the Francesca’s brand, Fiore’s bold visual statement serves as a reflection of the unique, multipurpose concept Scott Harris Hospitality is bringing to the neighborhood.

Literally translated, Fiore means “flower,” but in this case serves as a phonetic nod to “flour” as it is used in the breads, pastas and pizza made in-house daily.

“We are upping our pasta game,” said Harris. “We are doing what we do best and using this space in an innovative way.”

When we stepped inside recently, the newly renovated restaurant was full of energy and the kitchens (yes, there are two) were bustling with activity. Harris, himself, was onsite while 17 notable chefs huddled inside the glass-walled kitchens going through a menu training led by Guillermo Tellez, director of culinary innovations for Scott Harris Hospitality. Chef Tellez, a native of Hidalgo in Michoacan, Mexico, brings considerable clout to the powerful team of chefs behind the much-lauded restaurant group. He was a protégé of acclaimed Chicago chef, Charlie Trotter, and the first recipient of James Beard Foundation’s Felipe Rojas-Lombardi Award of Achievement for Hispanic Chefs.

Chef Guillermo Tellez, photographed inside Fiore Pizzeria and Bakery in Forest Park. Melissa Elsmo | Food editor

“We’re bringing new dishes to our menus with an eye for consistency,” said Tellez as the training concluded. “Francesca’s has been around for many years. We want to keep our integrity and adapt for future generations. That is what we are doing here.”

The arrival of Fiore and the cadre of culinary professionals associated with the brand means Forest Park has become the central hub for production of pastries, breads, and pastas for all 14 Francesca’s restaurants and the other Chicagoland establishments affiliated with Scott Harris Hospitality.

“Cooking has always been my happy place and I was the principal driver on this project,” said Jaysen Euler, culinary director for the organization. The full-service Francesca’s, which had been a destination on Madison Street for many years, closed during the early stages of the pandemic.

“As we looked at what we could do with the building, it became clear we should take advantage of Forest Park’s centralized location,” said Euler.

Euler, who worked at Davanti Enoteca, has a long history with Scott Harris and conceptualized Fiore. He acted as a general contractor on the project and had a heavy hand in designing the space. A grocery store, situated on the east side of the building is still under construction, but will eventually offer several sandwiches and Italian pantry staples for sale to the public. In the meantime, customers can enjoy the bright front dining room with large retractable windows and centrally located bar area. The creatively divided building features a duo of glass kitchens — one to service restaurant guests and a second to serve as pasta, pastry and bread production kitchen for all Chicagoland Scott Harris establishments.

The interior of Fiore Pizzeria and Bakery in Forest Park. Melissa Elsmo | Food editor

The space feels modern and cutting edge with a voyeuristic charm — during business hours artisans will be on display crafting the elements put to thoughtful use on Fiore’s menu. The menu is handwritten daily at Fiore and leaves plenty of room for flexibility and innovation on the ever-changing menu.

“Don’t judge it by the handwriting — that’s mine,” laughs Euler. “This is an ode to the original Mia Francesca; all of the menus there were handwritten, too.”

Mainstays like the pepperoni, sausage and Margherita pizzas have earned permanence on Fiore’s menu, but head Chef Jonathan Court is eager to bring seasonally driven dishes to his thoughtful offerings. Chef Court worked his way up at the Purple Pig and Davanti Enoteca in Chicago and cultivated an understanding of high-volume production at Parlor Pizza Bar before making his return to Scott Harris Hospitality to lead the kitchen at Fiore.

“In a way I am going back to where I started,” said Court. “I am excited to have that artisan element back and I am excited to create seasonal specials.”

Look for sharable antipasti, like the whole roasted cauliflower with whipped garlic and Calabrian chili breadcrumbs, Nonna’s meatballs with whipped ricotta or wood roasted Roman vegetables to set the tone. An assortment of fresh pastas, ranging from toothsome spaghetti pomodoro or comforting baked lumache with vodka sauce, join creative pizzas. Executive pastry Chef Leslie Tellez provides sweet finishes to round out the Fiore menu.

“I am very excited to bring a little piece of the city out to Forest Park,” said Court.