After months of darkness, there is new light — and hope — set to shine on the corner of Galena Boulevard and Stolp Avenue.
On Monday, Roberto Avila, owner of Altiro Latin Fusion, told me he’d just signed an agreement with downtown developer David Karademas to open his fifth restaurant in the former Leland Legends location in downtown Aurora.
What would and should be prime real estate — it sits across from the Paramount Theatre and its soon-to-open Aurora Arts Center — has seen more than its share of hurdles, not to mention controversy, after Leland Legends closed unexpectedly this summer because the new investors Karademas had turned it over to a year earlier could not make a go of it after the developer, too, had failed to make it successful.
In September, it looked like the owners of Midtown Pub and Grill which had leased that space from Karademas before it became Leland Legends, would be moving back in. Midtown had enjoyed a long run at that corner, but it was no secret the city wanted a more upscale restaurant to fit its vision for Aurora as an arts and entertainment destination.
A shuttered restaurant across from the Paramount was indeed a black eye on the city, particularly as the theater was kicking off another season of its increasingly popular Broadway Series, which has turned this downtown venue into the second largest subscription house in the nation.
With locations in Geneva, West Chicago, Roscoe and — this year — in La Grange, Altiro describes itself online as a “tapas-style inspired Latin fusion cuisine of classic dishes with infused new flavors from Spain, Mexico and South America.” The website also boasts a menu made of all natural and fresh ingredients purchased locally, adding that even its sweeteners are made from “agave-based nectars.”
The 43-year-old Avila, a former professional soccer player and real estate developer in Mexico City, said he learned the restaurant business from the ground up after following family and friends to the Chicago area in 2000. He started off as a dishwasher before working his way up to server, bartender, chef, manager and finally owner of a growing restaurant brand.
Family is important to Avila, who insists that’s the way he treats all employees as well as the patrons who come through his doors. It’s all about “giving them the food and experience” that will keep them coming back, he noted.
“David believes in my concept … we are on the same page,” Avila said of his partnership with Karademas. “We are excited to open in Aurora and are hoping for the city’s help.”
Which Irvin promised to give so the new restaurant can “open as soon as possible.”
Describing Altiro as “one of my favorite restaurants” when he was a lawyer working in the Tri-Cities, Irvin said after he was elected mayor, he “drove around St. Charles and Geneva looking for the kind of restaurants he’d like to bring to Aurora.”
Having known Avila since he was a server at another Geneva restaurant, Irvin said he had long admired the man’s work ethic and culinary talents. And so, he set up a meeting, introduced him to Karademas and “it took off from there.”
This is, the mayor noted, “the level of professionalism we are bringing to downtown Aurora.”
Of course, the key will be longevity.
Irvin was more than optimistic Altiro will do well, not just because it offers excellent food but because the downtown, he insisted, is at a turning point. And he points to “so much development breaking ground in 2019” — including the Hobbs and Terminal buildings — as well as the opening of the arts center in March.
“We are continuing to build relationships, meeting the right people,” he said.
But for any business to thrive, of course, it needs the backing of this community.
“I know the Paramount patrons and staff will be very pleased with the latest addition to our growing arts and entertainment district on Stolp Island,” said Karademas. “Nevertheless, the success of Altiro, and the success of downtown Aurora overall, is entirely in the hands of Aurora’s people.”