Food and family are only part of what makes this comfy Italian joint in Byron, Ill., a favorite for many loyal diners, who flock toward homegrown dishes, succulent steaks and a wide variety of wines.
Twenty-seven years ago, Rosario (Saro) and Robin Costa became parents and business owners in the same year. Since then, they’ve had another child, and their business, an Italian restaurant that began in an old storefront in downtown Byron, Ill., relocated to a new location in 2000. Their children – daughters Nina, 27, and Adriana, 17, both work at the restaurant that shares their last name.
“They were born in flour,” their dad jokes, asserting that his girls have helped out in the restaurant for as long as they’ve been alive. Little Adriana would play hostess while her older sister answered phones during the dinner rush.
Costa’s Pizzeria and Ristorante is located at 133 E. Blackhawk Drive in Byron, just 15 miles south of Rockford. Known for authenticity and the use of fresh, quality ingredients, the Costas offer standard Italian fare that’s anything but typical.
Saro’s homemade dough lends itself to the restaurant’s famous pizzas, bread and house pasta. Drink and food specials change frequently, so there’s always something new to try. And, with a kid’s menu that was curated by Nina and Adriana when they were bambinos themselves, even the pickiest eater can find something to eat.
For those with more elevated tastes, try the Sinatra: a 14-ounce New York Strip steak, baked with a garlic crumb topping.
Saro suggests choosing from their offering of “nice Italian wines” to satiate your taste buds. Choose a bottle from the stately wooden wine rack that takes center stage in the dining area, or opt for a glass selection from the bar. While pinot noir is Saro’s personal favorite, Costa’s offers a wide variety of reds, whites and blends with price points ranging from $16-60 a bottle.
The matter-of-fact Saro perks up when he talks about Costa’s annual wine tastings.
“We pair wines with each dish,” Saro explains. “There’s an appetizer, salad, pasta, entree and dessert. We usually start with a Spanish bubbly, cuvée, or prosecco with cheese for starters.”
Family and food are of the utmost importance at Costa’s, Saro says. The family name is displayed prominently as a decorative statement piece in the dining room and photos of several generations of Costas grace the website’s photo gallery. Whether dining inside, enjoying a meal beside the fire pit on the patio, or bellied up to the bar, Costa’s flair and familiar flavors aim to satisfy.
Not only does Costa’s serve guests in the Byron and surrounding area, but employees are also available to cater events. Saro notes they do a lot of weddings and banquets, holiday parties and corporate functions. Both plated meals and buffet or family-style are available.
This year’s wine dinner, hosted by the Byron Chamber of Commerce, is on Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. Saro will be preparing the specialty dishes himself, while a sommelier will be on hand to pair the wines. Purchase tickets for this private event through Eventbrite.com by searching “Costa’s” in Byron.