Creative Writer – Mike



Monteverde Raises the Italian Culinary Bar in Chicago with Traditional Cuisine and a dash of Modern Flair.

The authentic northern Italian eatery will tell the story of pasta through a unique lens influenced by world culture.

CHICAGO – Monteverde, a modern take on authentic Italian cuisine, is slated to open its doors on April 1, in the upscale, restaurant-studded Fulton Market, with the intent on elevating the already-sterling Italian food scene of Chicago to heights never seen before. At the helm of this revolutionary restaurant, is former Spiaggia culinary hero and Top Chef stand out, Sarah Grueneberg, paired with fellow Spiaggia colleague and long-time friend Meg Sahs – two visionary forces that know Italy, and maintain an undying passion for the food and culture.

“When conceptualizing Monteverde, we wanted the restaurant and cuisine to tell a narrative that was relatable, yet new and distinctive to our guests,” said Sarah Grueneberg, Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Monteverde. “Our menu is a testament to that, allowing diners the ability to explore dishes that are simple, light, and traditional, to more complex and substantial items, with a trace of unconventionality.”

While patrons can expect Italian fare that’s authentic and traditional in nature, it is Grueneberg’s love for global cultures that will set her cuisine apart from the rest.

Through her travels from Texas to Japan, Spain to China, the Houston native is able to cross-pollinate international cuisine and techniques to create Italian food that is uniquely Monteverde.

Monteverde, which translates to “green mountain” in English, is a postcard-worthy area of northern Italy, and the basis of the restaurant’s creative cuisine and design. Executive chef and co-owner Grueneberg and co-owner/partner, Sahs, are ultimately looking to tell guests their personal story of pasta, through its eclectic array of dishes that will grace the Italian eatery’s seasonal menu. And that very story will be a focal point of the restaurant’s interior design.

Gruenberg and Sahs’ restaurant is built around Italian tradition, and it prides itself in serving guests handmade, fresh cut pasta made onsite in the West Loop eatery’s pastificio (as it is ordered), located steps away from its full bar. Once guests order their dishes, they can peer into the kitchen, and watch as their pasta comes to fruition.

Monteverde will take full advantage of the Midwest’s expansive, fruitful landscape to source ingredients that are fresh, and flavorful. The tri-fold menu will feature items such as:

 First Fold – in development
 Center Fold –Tipico – tortelli en brodo, spaghetti Carbonara, lasagna. Atipico – black pepper tagliatelle with Singapore Crab sauce, Wok fried pasta with prawns, fermented black beans and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, fideo con frutti di mare.
 Third Fold – Bucatini Domenica alla Napoletano – mixed meats braised in tomato sauce, served with bitter greens salad and bucatini pasta.
 Dessert – Mini vanilla-pistachio ice cream pizzelle sandwiches dipped in dark chocolate and sea salt sprinkles.

Many of the restaurant’s rare, imported or homemade ingredients, such as dry pasta, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh sauces can even be purchased by customers, as they exit the eatery.

Monteverde prides itself in holding its beverage program to the same high standards as its incredible food. Guests will be able to choose from a medley of evolving drinks, created to not only complement, but also enhance each meal.

The Italian eatery will be fitted with a full bar, offering a rotating list of signature cocktails that utilize Italian, American and other artisanal spirits. Diners will also be graced by a wide range of globally sourced wine and sake options, Italian after-dinner drinks and café choices.

“Our shared love for Italian cuisine and culture is a testament to the heightened sensorial experience that we provide patrons,” said Meg Sahs, co-owner/partner of Monteverde. “From a business standpoint, there’s no better accomplishment than building a concept that invites customers in as a member of the family and serves them an authentic meal that we can be proud of.”

As far as aesthetics go, warm, glowing and energetic, melded with comfortable, casual, natural and fun, aptly describes Monteverde’s design. It was purpose built to radiate its own personality and enhance guests’ culinary experience, thanks to Karen Harold, acclaimed designer of Stephanie Izard’s masterful, Girl and the Goat.

Both Grueneberg and Sahs owe much of their professional success and Italian affinity to James Beard award winning chef, Tony Mantuano. It was this cooking legend, that gave the two talented young chefs an opportunity to sharpen their skills at Michelin rated Spiaggia, the only four-star Italian restaurant in the city. It was there that Grueneberg grew her culinary mind, and Sahs started to develop the business savvy necessary to make Monteverde a reality.

Grueneberg also grew national and international praise during her tenure at Spiaggia, flexing her culinary muscles, as the runner up in Texas, on Bravo’s popular reality show, Top Chef, and most recently, Top Chef at Sea.

The dynamic duo has built their culinary careers in the city of Chicago, and they whole-
heartedly agree that this is where their restaurant belongs. Monteverde, to them, has the potential to truly contribute to the meteoric rise of Chicago’s ever-growing culinary landscape that continues to gain clout in the U.S. and beyond.


Chezi Rafaeli Redefines Luxury Real Estate in Chicago

Chezi Rafaeli, a top producing agent associated with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, can look back fondly on his years in the Midwest – particularly 2014 – and relish in the fact that he has truly changed the landscape of Chicago’s luxury real estate market.

Since moving to Chicago with his wife and twins back in 2000, Rafaeli has spent more than a decade finely tuning his craft, to ultimately differentiate himself from the ever-evolving competition. That distinguishing characteristic turned out to be quite simple: know your product – down to the smallest nuance – because in the end, knowledge truly is power.

Armed with that prevalent notion, Rafaeli shattered the ceiling of expectations for luxury property sales in the Loop and Gold Coast. The veteran Realtor® sold 57 units, amounting to more than $109 million in sales volume for 2014 alone. To-date, Rafaeli lives famously in the city’s history books for selling the 1st and 2nd most expensive properties of all time in Chicago. Over the span of his career, he has also been named to the Coldwell Banker International President’s Premier, which honors the top 1% of sales agents in the company worldwide.

Rafaeli capped off this past year with the legendary sale of the gargantuan 14,000 square foot, 89 th floor penthouse perched atop Trump Tower in River North for $17 million in cash. News of this record breaking property sale – which currently sits as the priciest transaction in the city’s history – conjured a lasting ripple effect, reverberating far beyond the borders of Illinois, to position Rafaeli as a national spectacle. On top of that, Chezi closed on the penthouse unit at Park Hyatt Tower (800 N. Michigan), which currently ranks as Chicago’s 2nd most expensive sale, respectively.

“These sales are a key indicator of Chicago’s true strength and potential within the luxury real estate industry,” said Rafaeli. “It is my goal to not only continue performing at a high level but work diligently to position this beautiful city at the forefront of the premium housing segment.”

With numbers more aptly fit for Manhattan, the “Second City” is quickly building its case as the First City. As Rafaeli, and fellow luxury property agents, sell more mega million-dollar homes, Chicago has a chance to continue growing its high-end market, and the upward trend in price per square foot. As a result, these factors could ultimately contribute to an influx in new luxury developments for prospective buyers and attract national and international business influencers/industries to gravitate to the Midwest.

“This city needs more exposure to the rest of the world, like New York, and developers need to build more premium properties to increase inventory,” said Rafaeli. “New York has buildings already sold out before they even start laying the foundation. If Chicago builders can take a leap of faith and reinforce their confidence in the market, the prosperity and growth will come.”

Historic sales numbers and career milestones aside, Chezi knows that the industry was built on forging strong relationships. As such, he prides himself in positioning clients front and center every time. It is this tactic that he believes contributes to true success and is looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this thriving city.



The human race is one incredible specimen. We’ve illuminated our world with the light bulb and ventured into the infinite abyss known as space. Yet despite these achievements, we still tussle with the age-old problem of “misplacing” our keys, which can often be the keys to our home – one of the biggest investments of our lives. As such, it’s important that we find a technological solution.

As a company that values innovation, I wanted to share a nifty gadget known as a Swalle Key Finder. The fob, which attaches directly to your keys, is Bluetooth enabled and can be used to locate objects through an intuitive app on your smartphone. While it may not bring you to the moon and back, it can help you seek out your lost items – not a bad start!

I hope you enjoy it and thank you for your business and referrals.


Turn Your Home into a Lean, Mean, Winter-Fighting Machine

Eggnog? Check. Festive holiday music? Check. Presents for loved ones? Check. The winter season is (snow) packed full of exciting activities and events, but many times, Midwesterners forget about the basics of survival during this relentlessly cold time of year. That survival starts at home, a space that not only serves as a refuge from the elements, but one of the most significant investments in a person’s life.

Following are guidelines you can use to ensure your house is lean, mean and ready to fight the winter machine:

CHECK It: This is probably the easiest of the guidelines to follow – simply asked: does your heating system work? Run your heat source for a few hours, adjusting the thermostat to different temperatures to see if the numbers will hold. If you’re running into issues, contact your local service technician as soon as you can, so you don’t run the risk of living in a four-bedroom, two-bathroom igloo for a night or two.

INSULATE It: Whether its fiberglass, mineral wool or cellulose, all home walls should be lined extensively with insulation, to ensure the warmth emanating from your heating unit doesn’t escape from the home. If your insulation is thin or ripped, it can be next to impossible to maintain a consistent temperature, and ultimately require more energy (and your money), to keep your interiors at a comfortable level during the winter.

CLEAR It: Before sub-32-degree days become the norm, it’s imperative to take a spin on your ladder to ensure there is no dirt, leaves, rogue baseballs, etc. in your home’s gutters. If there is – remove it. If you don’t, as the snow and ice melt off the rooftop, that clutter will prevent proper drainage, diverting the precipitation back into the walls of the house, creating the chance for water damage.

SEAL It: Windows, doors and any other openings in your home to the outside world, require proper sealant around the perimeter. Be sure to check the state of the sealant, if it’s in good shape, you’re set for the winter, if not, caulk the area to fill any holes. It’s important to remember that you may be safe for the duration of the season, but homeowners should monitor these spaces at various points throughout the year. You never know when the sealing material will deteriorate from the elements, or any unforeseen circumstances.


Don’t Just Sell a Product, Sell a Story

American poet, Maya Angelou, said it best…
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In the marketing and sales world, this art form is called “Story Selling”, which essentially combines story telling with sales. Simply put: Learn it, love it, live it. This strategic tactic will undoubtedly be a significant part of what influences the general public into supporting your grand concept/product.

As you are formulating marketing strategies, communications plans, video content and photos, “Story Selling” should be weaved in as the overarching theme, across all categories. It is what gives your product a heart beat – a true reason to care – outside of its tangible benefits.

According to a study from a Neuroeconomics Director at Claremont Graduate University, an engaging story can alter a human being’s brain chemistry, potentially yielding heightened levels of trust, empathy and openness.

In your comprehensive crowd funding campaign, it is imperative that you associate your product with relevant, engaging anecdotes. For example, let’s say you’ve created the best tasting sugar free cookies out there. Well, that’s great, but why? Maybe you’re an advocate of Diabetes research, or your grandfather has suffered from Diabetes for years, and now after nearly a lifetime, he can finally enjoy dessert without the debilitating repercussions of his condition.

It is essential that you identify and associate your idea with the stories of passion that
fueled you to come up with your idea in the first place.

Bottom line, evoke emotion in your audience, just as a storyteller would his readers, and
you will create the ability to garner the attention and support your product deserves.

Managing Risk” 101 for Start Ups

It’s hard work being the founder of a company. That is why it’s essential to manage your business properly – especially when it comes to start ups. That means managing cash flow, market demand, company staffing, etc. Many of these risky pieces can, and do lead to the ultimate demise of a company if not strategically monitored and tweaked in real-time.

What do you think is the number one reason why start ups fail? Give up? It’s a lack of market demand for a product. (More on that here) Intellectual Property (IP) is also a significant component that is often overlooked and undervalued, which can ultimately lead to the fold up of a new company. In fact, the majority of a start up’s worth can be wrapped up in IP, so this risk is incredibly real, if not managed properly.

You may not know it at the start, but the saltshaker you invented with 16 sprinkling holes instead of 8, may very well be the industry standard one day, so you’ll want to protect your idea at all costs.

The IP law specialists at Wolf Greenfield would agree, according to their insight, and I urge you to review the below “common mistakes” that these specialists have laid out for entrepreneurs.

 Adopting a brand or technology owned by another entity
 Waiving valuable IP rights through public disclosure
 Unknowingly licensing your IP via Open-Source Software
 Forgetting to document that IP generated by employees and consultants is owned
by the startup
 Failing to develop IP to help attract investors

In a nutshell, start-ups do fall within the “big risk, big reward” category, but if you can stay cognizant of the aforementioned factors, and manage them accordingly, the “big” risk, can become that much smaller.

Start making content that sells