Entrepreneur stakes claim with Elmwood Park restaurant
Server Alma Beldran checks on Silvia Medina of Melrose Park and Beryl Leiva of River Grove during their dinner at Pampas Argentine Restaurant and Steakhouse. | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:33AM
ELMWOOD PARK — After only a few years in America, this entrepreneur wanted to bring a taste of his homeland to the dinner table to share with others.
So Hugo Aguilar took a leap of faith, launching Pampas Argentine Restaurant and Steakhouse, 7308 W. North Ave. in Elmwood Park. The restaurant opened its doors Jan. 22.
Aguilar, 46, born and raised in Argentina, is more familiar with working in the IT field, either for himself or for someone else.
“This is my first restaurant,” he said. “This is my first business where I have employees and I have to really care about others. Before it was just me.”
The nervous excitement can be seen on Aguilar’s face, but not from worry, but from bringing what “pampas” stands for to life. The word is used as a noun and represents the vast grassy plains of northern Argentina where he grew up.
“It’s (pampas) a place for cattle, a place for farming, a very calming place,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to reproduce here, tranquility.”
The food served in his restaurant is a mixture of Spanish and Italian. Many Italians immigrated to Argentina during the early 1900s and during both world wars, influencing what people ate, he explained.
“We expanded our flavors to different dimensions and it is more sophisticated,” he said. “We’re trying to be even more authentic.”
He said those who come to his restaurant will experience great food, with great flavor and the courtesy which is a high standard in his homeland.
“I always like to please my guests, my family with food,” he said. “It’s a strong passion for me.”
He said their empanada, a bread pastry usually filled with meat, is the restaurant’s signature dish.
Kevin Bednarski, head chef at the restaurant, said grilled and roasted meats of varying cuts are also a dining highlight.
On the right side of the restaurant is a full bar that specializes in various wines from Argentina, Chile and Italy. Dark wooden chairs and tables covered with snow-white tablecloths accent the orange walls of the restaurant.
“All of the pictures on the wall (of the restaurant) are from different parts of the country (Argentina),” Aguilar said.
He plans to have an official grand opening soon, but hungry customers don’t have to wait. “It’s a nice place to relax and enjoy yourself,” he said.
The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. For details and reservations, call 708-395-5451.