Business

Uno-Plus opens today in Swampscott

SWAMPSCOTT ? Uno-Plus celebrates its grand opening today in Vinnin Square, offering customers far more than the Chicago-style deep-dish pizza and assorted entrees for which the restaurant chain is known.The new eatery has the feel of a cozy pub, with plenty of booths and round tables with padded leather chairs. The walls and ceilings are alive with an eclectic mix of memorabilia, much of it harking back to the company’s humble roots in the Windy City during World War II.The high ceilings lend a spacious feel and patrons can see the entire kitchen operation through a glass wall. Flat-screen monitors provide televised entertainment without the sports-bar obtrusiveness. The horseshoe bar is tucked at one end of the 180-seat dining room but not isolated from the action. An elevated fireplace caps the opposite end, and for those who prefer to dine al fresco, a patio seats another 40 in fair weather.Customers enter the restaurant through a lobby that doubles as a two-story glass atrium, and it’s there that the movie-theater marquee spells out Chicago in illuminated letters. The iconic sign is visible to passing motorists.”We want people to have an experience here, not just a meal,” said Frank Guidara, president and chief executive officer of Boston-based Uno Chicago Grill. “We want our customers to feel comfortable and have a good time, so the staff will be very friendly and accommodating. But most of all we want them to enjoy good food and drink at an affordable price.”Guidara, a Nahant resident, is a corporate manager with an eye for detail, lending his opinions and insights to the menu, the interior design and furnishings, and even how to install accent lighting on the natural rock behind the building.The menu features Uno’s original deep-dish pizza, of course, but executive chef Christopher Gatto has perfected other items such as Tortellacci, grilled Mahi-Mahi with mango salsa, and grilled shrimp and sirloin. Gatto, a graduate of the Johnson & Wales culinary school, brings a fresh creativity to the menu with healthy lettuce wraps, flatbreads coated with sweet and sour ingredients, peppers and cheeses and fruits. There’s also plenty of innovative shrimp, steak and chicken dishes.”For those who like their meat, our beef is Certified Angus,” said Guidara, referring to the select grade of beef. “It’s better than choice grade.”Gatto, who changes the menu twice a year, said many new items have zero grams of trans fat and are designed for healthy nutrition. For instance, the chicken Milanese isn’t fried. The salads are laden with assorted fresh greens. There are soups and chowders and all-you-can eat lunch specials.Asian chicken salad, grilled rosemary chicken with aged Cabot, southwest salmon skewer salad, peppered shrimp quesadilla, and the venerable Gorgonzilla Burger are merely some of the selections.Espresso, cappuccino, and a full range of desserts like Gatto’s pumpkin tart on flaky dough topped with whipped cream are among the after-dinner choices.According to Guidara, the Uno-Plus bar stocks top-brand liquors and beers, and its wine list has been dramatically expanded. The cellar holds red wines like an Alamos Malbec from Argentina, a Blackstone Merlot from California, an Indaba chardonnay from South Africa, and a dozen other vintages in red, white and blush.”We want people to be comfortable with our wine selection,” the chief executive said, noting the menu provides a chart that helps match food choices with an appropriate wine. “Of course you should drink whatever wine you prefer, with the meal of your choice. The chart is merely a reference.”Uno-Plus will introduce so-called Taste Hours in its lounge only on Sunday through Friday, from 4-7 p.m. and from 10 p.m. until closing, during which miniature menu items can be had for $1.99 to $2.99. Pizza skins, Buffalo wings, caramelized onions, burger sliders, beer-steamed shrimp and other snacks will be part of the Taste Hours menu.”The Taste Hours will be for the lounge, but we’ll

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