Meet Tony Garcia from Avanzare

Tony Garcia, owner of Avanzare Italian Dining, is currently hard at work getting ready for the restaurant’s new location set to open later this month.

By Tessa Cooper

May 2024

Photo by Brandon AlmsThe Garcia family has invested their time and resources for Avanzare into the Springfield community at both their old and new location. Purchase Photo

In Italian, Avanzare means “to push forward.” The restaurant industry is notoriously challenging, and we often see quality establishments close too soon. Judging by the fact that Avanzare Italian Dining has been in business for 22 years and is expanding to meet its increasingly popular demand, we say it lives up to the name. The restaurant’s current 320-square-foot location at 1908 South Glenstone Avenue seats 100 guests max, and the new 1,200-square-foot location that’s on track to open later this month will accommodate more than 250 guests.

Tony Garcia owns Avanzare, but he’s quick to credit much of the restaurant’s success to his family. He initially opened it with his brothers, Jesus “Chuy” and Mauricio Garcia.

Mauricio was formerly the restaurant’s pastry chef but has since moved, while Chuy is now the executive chef. Tony’s wife, Carmen, oversees behind-the-scenes business operations such as payroll and tip-outs, while his parents, Marta Padilla and Gregorio Garcia, help with bread and pasta noodle preparation.

While Tony originally planned on keeping the current location and selling the concept when he retired, that plan changed when his kids started showing interest in the family business. This new expansion will help the next generation of the Garcia family guide Avanzare through another 20-plus years. Two of Tony and Carmen’s children, Yahairia (25) and Antonio (19), already hold manager positions at the restaurant.

Tony relocated from Chicago to Springfield in 1998 to accept a position at Ristorante Teatro. “I like my 20-minute city,” Garcia says. “Springfield is a good place for [raising] family, and that’s one of the main reasons I stayed here.”

He admits that sourcing quality ingredients can be a bit challenging in Missouri. “I have to import a lot of my ingredients, like the olive oil, prosciutto, salami and cheese,” he notes. “It can become really expensive, but the good quality is totally worth it. My food is pretty simple. I don’t really complicate it too much, but I use the highest quality ingredients I can find for my customers.” He began honing his cooking skills while working at Tuscany Restaurant in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood. Later, when he started working at Chicago’s popular fine dining restaurant, Coco Pazzo, he got the chance to train under a chef from Tuscany.

It’s no surprise that the menu at Avanzare has a North Tuscan influence. You won’t find heavy, cheese-laden pasta there. Instead, you get to choose from fresh dishes with brighter flavors. For example, the pan-seared chicken breast comes with myriad whole food ingredients, including artichokes hearts, mushrooms and kalamata olives, and it all rests on a bed of pesto mashed potatoes with roasted vegetables. Fruits of the sea, like shrimp, mussels, salmon and lobster, also dominate the menu. “North-Tuscan style is a lot more Mediterranean style,” he says. “They use more olives, capers, fresh vegetables and fresh herbs like basil. They also cook with a lot of seafood, which is what we do [at Avanzare].”

While the location is changing, Tony wants to assure his customers that their favorite dishes won’t be going anywhere and the main floor’s menu will stay primarily the same. However, the expanded space will allow Avanzare to provide new dining experiences to its customers. For starters, they plan on offering frequent wine-pairing dinners in the wine cellar. At the bar, you’ll be able to order from a new tapas menu. Additionally, the restaurant will be open seven days a week and will operate under expanded hours on Sundays with lunch specials.

The Garcias are excited to offer more to the Springfield community. “Our customers have become our friends and also our family,” Tony says. “That’s what is so unique about this place. I have so many customers who I can just call up.”

Visit Avanzare’s new location at 3240 S. Fremont Ave. in Springfield. The projected opening date is at the end of April 2024. Keep an eye on their social media for announcements and updates.