After decades of operating family-run restaurants in Milan, Verona and Bologna, the Vullo family has come to Champaign bringing generations of Italian recipes! Nando Milano serves traditional Italian food in a casual trattoria setting in downtown Champaign. Enjoy their house-made specialty pastas, breads, desserts and extensive wine list. CCP spoke with Executive Chef Alessio Vullo.
When did you open Nando Milano and why did you choose downtown Champaign?
We opened three years ago, in 2015, after being open for seven years at our Chicago location. My sister-in-law, Amy is a surgeon and after medical school she did her residency here in Champaign where we fell in love with the city. We saw an opportunity to bring an authentic Italian experience to this community, where customers are treated like special guests. We give them our best and make them happy!
How does the Champaign location differ from your original restaurant in Wicker Park?
Wicker Park has more young families with kids that come to Nando Milano. We’d love to see more families and kids here.
What’s your favorite item on the menu right now?
That’s hard to say. I love to cook the special features on our menu. Right now we’re featuring risotto alla pescatora, which is a seafood and rice dish – one of my favorites.
What are your main influences in your cooking and where do you find inspiration?
I learned cooking from my Grandma and my cousin is a chef in Brazil, so I think we have the right DNA for this business. I never went to culinary school but I learned traditional Italian cooking when I was in Bologna for 13 years. Everybody can teach you something! I try to learn from other cultures and cuisines and bring that knowledge to my cooking here.
What have you learned running Nando Milano in Champaign?
A lot! I’ve learned it’s important to take care of my staff and to be more patient and calm. And never give up.
What are your goals for this next year?
This year we’d like to maintain and keep up the quality and consistency for our customers at Nando. I would also like to have a stronger presence at Crudo (downtown wine bar, owned by Alessio’s brother Dario) – always improving!