16 W. Maple Street, Chicago | Phone: (312) 335-8200 | Hours: Sun.-Thu: 5:30PM-9:30PM | Fri. & Sat: 5:30PM-10:30PM


Giampaolo Sassi came to Chicago and the restaurant business later in life. He might tell you he’s making up for lost time.

“In my twenties, I spent eight years teaching technology to boys aged 10 to 14 and also studied Economics at university in Bologna,” he says. “Starting at age 30 and lasting 15 years was my work in gemology. I partnered with a company in Bologna that was in need of a buyer on the diamond exchange in Antwerp, Belgium.”

But apparently diamonds are not forever, because Giampaolo found himself facing a classic mid-life crisis. “I sold my shares in the company and waited for something big. That’s when I decided to back Silvia, who at the time was running her fashion atelier.” 15 more years passed, and Giampaolo soaked in memories and experiences in the fashion world.

Then, the fateful trip: Giampaolo visited his son, Marcello, in Chicago. The trip was meant to be a brief repose before getting back to work, but he came away struck by the lack of classic Bolognese cuisine in the city.

And so, Merlo on Maple was born. “It was a great opportunity for Silvia to show her passion for Bolognese culinary traditions,” he says. The restored townhome at 16 W Maple is the perfect spot for each of them. Silvia was born to cook, and Giampaolo is a gifted storyteller and businessman. Their dedication and passion for serving delicious, authentic Italian grows every day.

So the next time you reserve a table at Merlo, keep an eye out for Giampaolo Sassi. Chances are he’ll be happy to tell you a story or two.

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