Benny’s & Franchesco’s Ristorante: Relax and Unwind in a Casual Environment

The newest addition to Rockford’s dining scene combines the classy cuisine of Franchesco’s with a more relaxed atmosphere where people come to unwind.

Franchesco’s Ristorante attracts diners from all across the region, from everyday people to those who grace our television sets.

“Best Delmonico I’ve ever had,” former Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs and current Green Bay Packers defensive linemen Dean Lowry wrote on the restaurant’s Wall of Fame beside their photos and autographs.
Toronto Raptors guard and Rockford native Fred VanVleet regularly dines inside the Wine Room.

And plenty of more down-to-earth people rub elbows every day at this fine-dining setting, where a soothing atmosphere and diverse menu go hand-in-hand.

This Midwestern dining destination attracts diners from all across the region, including the western suburbs, Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison, Wis.

Benny Salamone, owner of Franchesco’s, opened the original Franchesco’s restaurant in Cherry Valley, Ill., with his brother Charlie and their father, Frank. What started as a restaurant that specialized in pizza back in 1986 has blossomed into one of the most elegant and lavish places to visit in Rockford.

Franchesco’s, 7128 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, is much more than a typical restaurant. Loaded with banquet halls, a stylish dining room and a hip new eatery, Franchesco’s has grown into a sprawling destination.

The present location was a joint venture between Benny’s family and Tom and Denise Larson. When it opened in 2009 it was a dream come true for Salamone.

The families will mark the 35th anniversary of the original Franchesco’s in October, when Frank Salamone, 92, works his ageless magic in the kitchen.

Named in honor of Frank, Franchesco’s is an upscale restaurant with more of a fine dining feel. A new secondary dining room, Benny’s, is a more casual setting where diners can dress down and unwind in a relaxing, yet casual location.

Benny’s now occupies the former Frank Sinatra Room, a space that was previously used for special events and entertainment.

“You don’t have to get dressed up to come here,” Benny Salamone says. “You can come as you are and not feel out of place.”

Salamone came to the United States from Sicily when he was just 9 years old, and his family’s Sicilian background really shines through in the menu.

Whether diners visit Franchesco’s or Benny’s, they’ll be treated to the same menu items, including the Prime Delmonico entree that Briggs and Lowry loved. It’s a 14-ounce premium center cut rib-eye steak topped with herb compound butter and served with whipped potatoes and vegetables.

“The Misa Sea Bass has been a staple dish for years and is revered by guests from all over the country as the best sea bass they’ve ever had,” Salamone says.

Homemade pizza and authentic Italian flatbreads are also fan favorites, and diners crave the Sicilian Eggplant flatbread and the Stefano Pizza, served with olive oil, garlic, imported Pecorino and homemade Italian sausage.

Diners who visit Benny’s during the warmer months are treated to natural lighting and fresh air when the walkthrough glass patio wall is fully opened “al fresco” to the bar and lounge.

Throughout the building, there are plenty of photos of the Salamone family, including a fun painting of Benny, his wife and their four daughters. There’s also a photo of his parents’ wedding in Sicily as they parade through the city.

It’s only fitting that Franchesco’s has ample space for weddings and banquets with elegant, modern decor, plenty of audio and visual equipment, and professional Chauvet lighting.

Franchesco’s continues to serve diners indoors. The dining rooms at Benny’s and Franchesco’s are both ready to serve with all necessary precautions.

“Despite the difficulties with the ongoing pandemic, we’ve been fortunate to survive, mainly because of the overwhelming support from our longtime guests and the hard work from my family and team,” Salamone says.

The kitchen at Benny’s and Franchesco’s is open Tues.-Thurs. 3-9 p.m., Fri. 3-10 p.m., Sat. 4-10 p.m. and Sun. 4-9 p.m. The bar is open Tues.-Fri. 3 p.m.-close and Sat.-Sun. 4 p.m.-close.

To make a reservation, call (815) 229-0800.