AGE: 48. LIVES IN: North Barrington. CLAIM TO FAME: Co-owner and chef at Italian restaurant La Scarola and founder of Lines (Linesclothing.com), a charitable T-shirt collection that debuted this month. FAMILIAR FACE: Vasquez is known among patrons for his charm, humor and rustic Italian fare — and for being a celebrity magnet (the walls of La Scarola are filled with photographs to prove it). But in the 20 years the River West eatery has been in business, visitors also took notice of another one of Vasquez’s talents, right on the restaurant’s paper tablecloths. “Every day, I sit at my table, drinking a cup of coffee, and draw,” he says. “People would tell me to do something with it, but I never thought anything of it.” MAKING A DIFFERENCE: His mind was changed a few years ago, when several members of his family — including a close cousin — were touched by cancer. “I’m a tough guy, but when I think about that, I cry,” he says. He printed his sketches — which include designs like trees growing hearts, a hand holding a globe and even a “Batkid” drawing by his 11-year-old son — on T-shirts (starting at $25). His goal? To partner with charitable organizations and donate a portion of the proceeds. COMING TOGETHER: So far, he’s teamed up with the nonprofit Ingalls Memorial Hospital in south suburban Harvey, Illinois. “They don’t turn people away, and they don’t charge people,” he says of what drew him to the hospital. “These guys are helping, so I want to help them.” As the line expands, he hopes to partner with local homeless shelters and cancer research organizations. UP NEXT: Vasquez is working on another debut, too — a cook book titled The Walls of La Scarola. “Every customer who comes here stares at all the pictures,” he says. “So [my partner] Joey [Mondelli] and I thought we’d put some of the pictures in the book, as well as recipes of the best sellers.” Look out for it at the restaurant next month.
Photo by Ramzi Dreessen; Shot on location at La Scarola (721 W. Grand)