About Bistro Campagne | Our Staff

Our Founder

Michael Altenberg, 1964 – 2012
Michael Altenberg established Bistro Campagne in 2002 and as chef-owner distinguished Bistro Campagne with pristine products prepared simply. His approach to cuisine was nurtured and developed from his culinary experiences both here and abroad, with a strong influence from Italian and French cooking. Altenberg was also involved in numerous pro-organic causes and projects for business and community development and was one of the first to herald the farm to table movement.

Since his untimely passing in 2012, Altenberg’s family with Chef Adam Dittmer and General Manager Todd Feinberg have continued the proud traditions created by Altenberg and celebrate his passion for food and respect for quality ingredients. Bistro Campagne prides itself on maintaining the standards established by Altenberg: using the finest ingredients available, preparing them in the simplest fashion and making great tasting food.

Altenberg earned a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy at the University of Colorado in 1985, and then garnered an associate’s degree in culinary arts at Kendall College in Evanston in 1987. He worked at Chicago’s top-ranked L’Escargot while at Kendall and completed an externship at chef-owner Bernard Cretier’s three-star Le Vichyssois in Lakemoor, IL. Upon graduation, Michael took an apprenticeship with legendary French Chef, Jean Banchet at Le Francais in Wheeling, where he studied for one and a half years.

Altenberg then moved to Italy and took a position as poissonier and pasta maker at the world famous San Domenico in Imola, where many of America’s greatest Italian restaurant chefs have trained. At the annual truffle festival in Gancia, Altenberg had the good fortune to meet Chef Ezio Santin of Antica Osteria del Ponte, a famous three-star restaurant near Milan, who subsequently hired him. While at Antica Osteria Altenberg had the opportunity to work every culinary station and learn invaluable lessons from the restaurant’s chefs who picked fresh herbs from a garden in the backyard and selected birds for daily preparation from a poultry house nearby. Michael’s tenure at Anitica Osteria profoundly developed and heightened his standards of freshness and interest in all-natural growing and raising methods.

Upon returning to the United States, Altenberg was hired as the executive sous chef at Chicago’s Gordon in 1992, where he ran the kitchen for nearly a year. Restaurateur Gordon Sinclair’s irrepressible passion and gracious hospitality taught Altenberg much about front-of-the-house management. He then was hired as the executive chef of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises™ Tucci Milan in 1993, where he revamped the menu, earned three stars from the Chicago Tribune and led the restaurant to the top of Chicago’s Italian dining scene. Altenberg’s Tucci acclaim earned him a corporate chef position at Lettuce, in charge of the restaurant group’s high-powered Italian division and gave him an opportunity to hone his management and organizational skills.

Altenberg subsequently became the chef of Montparnasse in Naperville and opened the French bistro Cassis in Chicago, both of which earned three-star reviews. Finally, he was ready to open his own restaurant with his friend and former manager of Tucci Milan, Steven Schwartz, in the summer of 1996. Campagnola in Evanston opened to critical acclaim offering rustic Italian fare made from the finest organic ingredients set in a comfortable atmosphere of a century-old building.

In June, 2002, Altenberg opened Bistro Campagne in Chicago’s popular Lincoln Square neighborhood. Bistro Campagne offers classic French bistro comfort food in a warm and friendly atmosphere of cozy dining rooms rich in wood trim and hand painted murals. During the spring and summer months, diners can also enjoy a beautifully landscaped and charming patio which winds around the bistro’s property.