aw: At a Polish hip-hop concert in
Chicago in … when was it, Gosia?
gp: January 2007. We were
married in 2008, had our first child
Yulie Rose in February 2009, and
opened the restaurant that year on
Halloween. Our second child Marcel
was born in October 2010.
was it love at first sight?
both: Yeah, yeah.
aw: I saw this girl and asked my
friend, “Do you know that hot blonde
gp: And I thought, “Oh, what a nice
aw: We moved in together the next
day, and started working together
right away on a song Gosia wrote
called, “I am your reflection.” It ended
up No. 2 on Billboard. Only kidding.
gp: We were married a year later
at an old-time Italian restaurant, the
first and last time they ever allowed
vodka on the table. And from the
start, we talked about opening a
how did you open a restaurant with
so little experience?
aw: We just said, “Let’s open a
restaurant and see what happens.”
It was kind of like the lyrics of El
Dorado: “We don’t know where we’re
going, but we know we found a ride.”
gp: It was like “Restaurants for
Dummies.” We got the money from
family and friends and said, whatever
happens, happens. Since I was in
real estate, I found our place on
the MLS real estate database and
waived my commission to get a
better deal. We built the whole place
from scratch, adding things as we
went along. Now, I am a waitress
and Art does the accounting, paper
work and PR.
aw: I also work as a waiter and am
one of our bartenders, along with our
third partner Piotr Hermanowski. And
I put the microgreens on the plate.
gp: We all wash dishes and
Aw: She’s the boss.
so how would you describe
gp: I call it Pan-European Polish,
infused with lots of influences from
France, Germany, Hungary, even
Russia. It is not Eastern European
food, since we never saw ourselves
as Eastern Europeans. We always
felt European. Most people know
Polish food from 1945 through the
Iron Curtain, when politics created a
reduced lifestyle. Pre World War II,
Polish cuisine was very sophisticated
and hip, with a gourmet tradition.
We both come from educated
backgrounds. Both of our families
were landowners. I remember
braised duck with apples from my
childhood. I’m sure my grandmother
was familiar with truffles pre WWII,
but from 1945 to1988, I don’t think
truffles were widely available. At
LOKaL, we eat as we have eaten our
entire lives, but in a way most people
don’t know about. For example,
our herring is put on the plate in an
aesthetic way. And we brine it not in
vinegar, but in white wine.
aw: And when we do potato pierogi,
we pair it with bourbon/date sauce.
If people think Polish food means
stuffed cabbage, they are not going
to get our concept.
can you give us some dishes
that represent LOKaL?
gp: Lobster pierogi, which we ate at
home in Poland and also eat here
in Chicago. We love lobster. And
putting it in pierogi means it’s more
affordable than a $30 tail. Tuna
tartare, since we love raw meat
and use sushi-grade tuna. Our chef
Ruben’s choice of spices is very
Polish and not Asian at all—salt,
pepper, capers and mustard. Are
scallops Polish? No. But we just like
scallops, so the dish is served
with Polish klushi noodles, Polish
peppered pears and Polish
aw: Farm smoked kielbasa. I have
to eat it every day. Our kielbasa is
smoked for 16 hours at a low
temperature, just like my grandmother
would make it. And it’s all natural
pork made from the kind of pigs we
were raised around. And 20 percent
of the sausage is pork belly.
how does chef Ruben Torres
fit into the picture?
aw: Gosia and I work as “virtual
chefs.” We come up with the ideas