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BORN AND RAISED IN ITALY, Dario Monni has been steeped in the rich Italian food culture from an early age. In his hometown of Venice, Monni learned the art of preparing handmade pasta from his ”nonna“ while listening to stories of his grandfather‘s specialty food store. His summers were spent with relatives on his father‘s side in rural Sardinia, where his family worked as shepherds, cheesemongers and butchers, imparting onto him the deep-rooted value of the region‘s rituals, honest ingredients and dedication to an authentic craft.



These early experiences fueled Monni‘s passion for Italy‘s revered cuisine and the culture of family-focused hospitality, inspiring him to pursue a career in the food and beverage industry. After obtaining a degree from Instituto Alberghiero Giuseppe Maffiolo, one of Italy‘s most respected culinary institutions, Monni left Venice for London at age 18 where he further pursued work within the city‘s world-class mixology scene. With a keen eye for detail, he excelled behind the bar and held positions at some of the world‘s most famed establishments such as Harry‘s Bar, Gritti Palace, Cipriani and Soho‘s LAB.

In 2009, Monni departed London and spent the next nine years traveling the globe, helming the beverage programs of top luxury restaurants and nightclubs in Dubai, Montreal and more. In 2012, Monni returned to London and landed at acclaimed Italian restaurant L‘Anima where he worked alongside celebrity chef Francesco Mazzei, initially leading the bar program of the award-winning concept and quickly advancing to oversee front of house operations.

During this time, Monni met his future wife, Jill Gray, a native Chicagoan, and the two spentseveral years together in London. Named one of Business Insider‘s ”Top 30 Women in Advertising“ in 2015, Gray has gathered extensive experience in marketing and tech, working across the globe at Leo Burnett, Publicis, Facebook/Meta and AI creative data startup VidMob.

A desire to be closer to family led Monni and Gray to relocate to her Midwestern hometown in 2016, where the couple set about starting their own family and bringing his lifelong vision to fruition. With the 2019 opening of Tortello, a charming neighborhood pasta shop & chef-driven restaurant, the husband and wife team is transporting Italy‘s emphasis on simplicity through culinary and cultural traditions to Chicago. As the restaurant‘s co-owners, Monni and Gray are committed to continuing his family‘s legacy of the simplest and very best ingredients, artisanal hand craftsmanship, and Italian hospitality & ritual.

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