Regional Dining Guide

Legacy: The Fine Dining Experience ‘Rockford Deserves’

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This intimate and upbeat steakhouse looks like a modern, upscale fixture you’re more likely to see in a larger city, like Chicago or New York. Step inside this trendy new hangout and find out what else sets it apart from the local scene.

Legacy, at Giovanni’s in Rockford, has the look and feel of a restaurant found in a big city, and it’s the sort of place founder/chef Al Castrogiovanni believes Rockford deserves. (GrahamSpencer photos)

Legacy, at Giovanni’s in Rockford, has the look and feel of a restaurant found in a big city, and it’s the sort of place founder/chef Al Castrogiovanni believes Rockford deserves. (GrahamSpencer photos)

The vibe and ambiance inside Legacy, the latest attraction at Giovanni’s, is something entirely new for Rockford.

“It’s not just the food,” says Al Castrogiovanni, Legacy’s founder and chef. “It’s the feel and the look of the place. When you walk in, it matches going to New York or Chicago.”

Last fall, Castrogiovanni decided to close down Big Al’s Bar, a staple at Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center, 610 N. Bell School Road, Rockford, so he could establish a stylish steakhouse with an upscale experience.

“I thought Big Al’s Bar needed a change, and this is something that I’ve been planning for four years, so I decided to pull the trigger last fall,” he says. “The bar concept is moving toward a place where you can eat and relax, and that’s exactly what Legacy is doing.”

Legacy is similar to a high-class restaurant you’d find in a bigger city. The trendy steakhouse has a lounge feel, making it an ideal place to unwind after a busy day. The intimate, upbeat restaurant has marble tables with blue napkins, along with custom-made furnishings and light fixtures. Guests can also eat their meals on large sofas, which have blue pillows.

This being a steakhouse, the highlight of Legacy’s menu is the juicy American wagyu steak. Big sellers include the 42-day, dry aged, prime saw cut rib-eye; a massive, 40-ounce porterhouse steak; and a local angus prime New York Strip that’s sourced within 200 miles of Rockford.

“We literally buy the best steaks that money can buy,” Castrogiovanni says.

Seafood lovers can enjoy succulent lobster tail, Alaskan king crab legs and a unique, fire-roasted seafood tower that comes with garlic butter.

For dessert, the 815 Chocolate Cake is a crowd pleaser. It has eight chocolates spread across 15 layers, and it’s served with a bourbon cream ice cream.

“The cake is as big as your forearm,” Castrogiovanni says with a laugh. “People really go nuts over it.”

Legacy sets itself apart in many ways, but its special signature is the Argentinian Asado cooking technique, which involves cooking with hot wood coals to impart a perfect char.

“The flavors that come from that style of cooking are just amazing,” Castrogiovanni says.

Legacy’s menu also boasts a handcrafted, custom cocktail list and an extensive whiskey menu that encompasses nearly 60 bourbons, 16 ryes, 16 scotches and a dozen international selections.

“I’ve been collecting whiskey for six years anticipating this restaurant,” Castrogiovanni says. “Our whiskey list rivals some of the best places in Chicago.”

Castrogiovanni also raves about the restaurant’s broad wine collection, including rare, French aged wine. He hopes the elevated experience at Legacy might be noticed by the likes of Wine Spectator, a publication that reviews and rates wines.

“Rockford deserves that kind of accolade,” he says.

Beyond simply fine dining, Castrogiovanni hopes Legacy becomes a go-to place to unwind after work or to spend a night out with friends. Signature cocktails are half off and late-night snacks are complimentary from 9-10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night. There are other specials throughout the week, including half-off wine by the glass on Tuesdays.

“We try to play cooler music later in the night, and the restaurant has this cool lounge vibe where you can chill and listen to good music,” Castrogiovanni says.

This is the sort of place Rockford can be proud of, he adds.

“Ever since high school, I’ve loved cooking steaks and seafood over an open grill, and that inspired me to open a restaurant with that style of cooking,” he says. “I also wanted to add fine wine and whiskey. I wanted to bring this type of restaurant to Rockford because Rockford deserves a place like this.”

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