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Worth restaurant business smoking for Soto

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Updated: July 7, 2013 11:32AM



Mario Soto fondly recalls looking for wood when he was a boy so his mother could prepare meals in their rural home in his native Mexico.

He learned to cook watching her prepare countless meals.

Forty-some years later, he gets the wood delivered as he and his staff prepare lunch and dinner for hungry diners.

Soto, 51, owns a new addition to the dining scene in Worth, Gemato’s Wood Pit BBQ, 6701 W. 111th St. The restaurant opened about four months ago. The original Gemato’s, started with his brother, Tomas, opened 17 years ago in Naperville.

These days, Soto, of Aurora, finds himself spending time at both restaurants, but concentrating on making the Worth location a success.

“This was vacant. We came here to bring a good product to the people so they can try it, enjoy it and so we can see them back again,” he said.

Maple, cherry and apple wood is used in the fire that blazes all day in the kitchen. We’re not talking wood chips, either. Large logs are used.

“It’s a sweet, smoky flavor,” Soto said.

Business has been going well, said Soto, who brought reminders of his youth to the decor with saddles, cowboy hats, spurs and other Southwest items. The exterior looks like John Wayne would feel at home.

“I got into the business because it’s the American dream to own your own business. When you grow up, you grow up behind your Mom watching her cook. When you grow up on the farm, you do the cooking, you ride the horses,” Soto said.

Barbecued ribs, chicken and brisket — all smothered with Soto’s homemade sauce — highlight a menu that includes wraps, salads, sandwiches and even a few Greek favorites such as gyros and kebobs.

The demands of the restaurant business are worth the reward, he said.

“You get tired like anyone else. It’s the ambitions you have that keep you going. You prepare the food. People like it. It makes you feel good,” he said.

He said he would be bored doing anything else. So would Jose Soto, 37, his nephew and business partner.

“When you love what you do, you do a better job,” the younger Soto, also of Aurora, said.

Oh, and about the restaurant’s unusual name ... Gemato’s combines the first two letters of the first restaurant’s founders ­— George, Mario and Tomas.

A baseball fan, Mario Soto noted that a namesake — no relation — pitched for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s and ’80s.

“He was a very mean son of a gun, nothing like me. I’m very sweet,” he said with a smile.

Gemato’s Wood Pit BBQ is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. The phone number is (708) 361-3757. Carryout and catering are available. Lunch specials are $7.49 to $8.99. The Monday and Tuesday dinner special is a half slab of ribs for $9.99 or a full slab for $15.99.



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