Mario Ventrella started Bar Nazionale on Chicago avenue back in the 70s.
He created a location for Italians to gather and have authentic Italian cafe foods that they could find back home, but could not find here in Chicago.
He was one of the first imported of Espresso, so that people could get their morning jolt!
After marrying, Mario then expanded his idea to Belmont and Oak Park to open Il Giardino Gelato (the ice cream garden). His wife Maria, who has an natural green thumb, loved gardens and picked out the name. Along with espresso, they offered a variety of gelato to go along with the treat. They realized that people enjoyed the authenticity of the gelato and espresso and began offering other savory Italian Specialties. They were one of the first people to introduce the United States to Panzerotti and Arancini. Soon enough, the location on Belmont just did not work out for their needs and they moved to Harlem Avenue. (Still the current location today!)
People started requesting more sweets and cakes. As customers came in for a coffee, they would say "I'm having a party this weekend, it would be great to be able to bring home cake". Mario and Maria came in with answers They expanded the menu to include Italian pastries, cookies and cakes. The name Il Giardino Gelato did not quite work anymore. This is where Il Giardino Del Dolce was born. Il Giardino Del Dolce means "the garden of sweets" or the "sweet garden". Maria decorated the front of the location to mimic a beautiful garden. The main area had an iron gate around turf with garden chairs and tables as places to sit. Each table even had it's own umbrella!
As the years went by, Mario and Maria raised their family as they still managed the to build a successful bakery. Their kids, Enzo, Elena and Angela, grew up in the bakery. Each would come to the bakery after days of school. All of them grew up rolling and filling cannolis!
More and more, the bakery concentrated on the "sweet' part of the business. Customers would come in for wedding parties, communions, confirmations, graduations, etc. The small cafe orders turned into large 200 or 300 party orders. Sweet tables and cakes became the specialties. With this, the bakery needed to change it's structure. More room was needed for production, so the cafe area was shrunken down, but the passion of the original bakery concept was not forgotten.
Over the years, Mario and Maria have given way to have their children take over the bakery. In 2007, Enzo and Angela took over the business to run it with the same dedication as their parents had started years ago.
The bakery grew from a small bakery shop to a 4,000 square foot facility baking cookies and pastries 6 days a week.
Mario passed away in 2017, and Maria retired in 2019, but Enzo and Angela still hold true to the original structure of quality pastries, cookies and cakes that their parents designed over 40 years ago. Il Giardino still holds true to it's roots by baking and creating products that follow old school recipes and high quality standards.
Today, Il Giardino Del Dolce is your go-to bakery for all pastry and sweet needs.