Sometimes Old is just better. Alex’s Washington Gardens Restaurant is just that-Old and better.
Angelina Scornavacco began the family dinning traditions in 1932 in an area in Highwood Illinois known as Washington Gardens. In the 1940’s her son opened a restaurant called Scornavacco’s. Her Grandson, Alex Scornavacco continued the tradition when in 1982 he opened up his own restaurant, Alex’s Washington Gardens at its current location on Green Bay Road in Highwood, Illinois.
Located at 256 Green Bay Road, in Highwood, Il., Alex’s Washington Gardens is a throwback to the days when the only restaurants you could get an alcoholic beverage on the Northshore of Chicago were located in Highwood. The town of Highwood, situated just north of Highland Park, became an oasis of Saloons and Restaurants Northshore residents sought out.
Explanation: The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, was for many years, very successful in banning the service of liquor in all Northshore communities, except Highwood. As a result, Highwood became the destination for all seeking good food or drink. Through the years, Alex’s Washington Gardens’ reputation grew in popularity and the tradition of fine Italian dinning was firmly established.
As you enter through Washington Gardens’ cramp doorway, there is an immediate sense of a time when we were younger, and neighborhood family owned restaurants were common. Space inside this cozy eatery is sparse. Facing you is a long bar with dining booths to the left and tables beyond the bar all packed with satisfied diners. The walls are grey-paneled. Red and white checkerboard squared tables cloths adorn each booth or table The welcoming warmth of the ownership and staff is clearly evident. Servers have been there for years, and while the ownership may have changed, Alex’s Washington Gardens continues to flourish as a favorite dinning destination.
One reason why people keep coming back to dine at Alex’s Washington Gardens is Angelina’s original simply delicious home-made Italian recipes made from scratch and served fresh every day. When long-time patrons, Jim and Michelle Stoecker heard that Alex wanted to sell the Gardens if he could, or he would just close the restaurant, they reached out and bought it in 2007. The Gardens holds a special place in the Stocker’s heart. It was their Friday night date place. Over the years, they developed a friendship with Alex and felt that this “Gem” of Italian dinning must be preserved. Jim’s business card clearly states his mission-“Keeper of the Flame.”
The menu is a cornucopia of Italian excellence. Original recipes handed down from Grandma Angelina Scornavacco to succeeding generations continue to delight. From the Italian Sausage Appetizer (a personal favorite), fresh salads, house specialties like Chicken or Veal Limon or Marsala, or memorable pounded down Veal or Chicken Parmigiana, to a wide assortment of seafood or pasta selections, you can savor fresh food prepared to satisfy the most discriminating palates. Mouthwatering meals with attentive service.
For many of the Washington Gardens faithful, the thin-crusted, squared-cut pizza is the best thin pizza to be found on the Northshore. The Gardens’ thin crust pizza is a savory delight that is a joyous experience with every bite. With a variety of toppings, this pizza is best experienced at the Restaurant. Although there is a delivery service, we recommend that you share this extra crisp pizza at the Gardens.
The Gardens offers specials every day. Ranging from fresh seafood, meat or pastas, each is stamped with the unique and tasty Gardens Italian Touch. We recently sampled one of their daily specials-Soft Shell Crabs. Ever faithful to the Gardens Italian traditions, this dish represents just why every meal at the Washington Gardens is- a special event.
The Gardens Italian traditions are best displayed with its Pasta offerings. Spaghetti, Penne or Angel Hair pasta must be paired with the Gardens’ family recipe meatballs or Italian Sausage sides. Choose from fresh daily sauces-marinara, meat or tomato cream sauces to complete
the dish. Dipping homemade garlic bread served hot into the Gardens’ meat sauce is a must.
For meat lovers, the New York Strip Steak is worthy of any steakhouse presentation. Another personal favorite is the Italian styled Pork Chops.
Salad or soup, and a choice of potatoes, pasta or vegetables, along with abundant breadbasket, featuring Italian baked breads accompanies each meal. The portions are generous.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, a Washington Garden’s Taffy-Apple Sundae is the perfect finishing touch to a memorable dining experience.
Alex’s Washington Gardens serve great meals at reasonable prices.
Dining at Alex’s Washington Gardens brings back endearing memories of the days of neighborhood eateries that were run by families who live in your neighborhood. Eating at one of these long-gone restaurants was like getting a personal invitation to share a meal with friends who happen to own a restaurant and took pride in serving you their best. A party with every meal. In a day where the restaurant scene is dotted with chains run by corporations, that comfort of experiencing a meal with people you know is special.
Today, Jim and Michelle Stoecker are dedicated to preserving Alex’s Washington Gardens and Grandma Angelina’s legacy, by serving memorable Italian food in a cozy welcoming setting. The Stoecker Family invite you to share a meal with your family-just like the old days.
Sometimes Old is Better.
Alex’s Washington Gardens Restaurant, located in Highwood Illinois at 256 Green Bay Road. Phone (847) 864-1936. Valet Parking Reasonable prices.
Photos: Nathan Metzger and courtesy of Alex’s Washington Gardens