Changes at Clementi’s

If you’ve had dinner at Clementi’s, you’ve likely met Mike. He’s the guy checking on each table, asking if you’ve enjoyed your meal, or sharing a story with you as you walk in. He’s a people person and it shows in his smile.

Running a restaurant has changed his whole life. Despite owning multiple businesses over the years, from real estate; to concrete statuary where he made fountains, birdbaths, flowerpots, gargoyles; to rehabbing buildings; he even owned a stenography business back in the day; Mike will tell you nothing prepares you for restaurant ownership.

071816_Mike_Clementi_SrMike fell into restaurant ownership when he bought two buildings for an investment. One building needing a lot of rehabbing, and one had a small restaurant/bar called Paprikash. It turned out Paprikash had a fabulous Hungarian chef and a competent manager so the business continued. After being reviewed by Check Please, it boomed! With success, Paprikash outgrew its location, meanwhile the neighborhood was undergoing changes, so, 14 years ago Mike moved Paprikash to Arlington Heights. Sadly, with the death of their Hungarian chef, the cuisine was harder to replicate and Mike saw an opportunity for a change, and the idea of Clementi’s was born.

Mike’s name was anglicized to Clements when his father entered the army, but the original family name was Clementi. Mike’s passion for Italian cooking came from his grandmother who lived with him for years. Using inspiration from Grandma Clementi’s original recipes, and out of a willingness to change with the circumstances, a chef was born. Each recipe developed from scratch, using fresh ingredients by Mike himself is an homage to his roots.

Having no formal training in the restaurant business, Mike and his son forged their way through learning the process, making improvements as they learned. When Clementi’s first opened it was more fine dining with linen table cloths and an extensive wine list – but this attracted customers mostly over 40. Mike and his son wanted to attract more families, so through a couple of remodels – they expanded the bar bringing in craft beers, updated the dining room, providing a more casual, family friendly atmosphere.

When asked why Clementi’s is closing now, Mike’s face softened and his hands came together. Owning and running a restaurant takes its toll. His son’s interests in brewing have deepened, and he’s looking to work in the brewing industry. With several key staff planning to leave shortly to return to school, he’s facing once again re-staffing the restaurant – which is a continual struggle. Facing his 6th decade, working from noon until 2 AM has grown old. All these factors have contributed to Mike’s decision to close. He won’t miss making food for 200 at a time – but he’s looking forward to cooking on a smaller scale for family and friends now that he’ll have time off on holidays. A chance to enjoy a regular night’s sleep, and spending time with his 19th month old grandson will be priceless. Mike is upbeat and positive about his future.

You’ll see him again soon – doing something scaled down where he can pick and choose something he really wants to do, when he wants to do it –  but he will still be in the area. He will carry on the Clementi’s tradition of being a resource to the community. A true believer in supporting community projects – Mike is currently the president of the local Lion’s club and an active Rotarian.  Clementi’s supported many local charities such as:

You can bet in his next endeavor, he will continue to support his community.

Change is bitter sweet. Mike will miss his regulars – like the couple who comes in every Friday night, the guy on the barstool on Wednesdays, it’s the people who really make the work worthwhile. As hard as it was to tell his staff, and he knows they all do well in their next endeavors. Friday, July 29th will be the last day for Clementi’s, at least as you know it now, but it will just be a new chapter in the life of Mike Clements, Sr.


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