Today, the two T’s target a trattoria, a trendy Asian spot and a gastropub. Let us waste no more time in getting to the reviews:
At Riccardo Trattoria in Lincoln Park, Phil Vettel is as tickled by the sensation of tripe - cooked as well as it can be to the consistency of overdone pasta - oozing down his throat as he is by the motivation and dedication of the restaurant’s chef-owner, Riccardo Michi. Michi, who opened the trattoria in his mid-50s, has around the same number of chairs in the restaurant and items on the menu. To accommodate such a configuration requires competent, knowledgeable service, which Vettel finds quite extant. Vettel is charmed by the “cute and unpretentious” dining room, where, in addition to the signature tripe, one can find the standard complement of rustic and classic Italian dishes like gnocchi brava with speck prosciutto, fontina cheese in a pink tomato sauce ($15) and roasted rabbit au jus with olives & soft polenta ($19). With such a wide assortment of dishes at reasonable prices (most dishes are under $20 and nothing exceeds $24), Riccardo is a welcome addition to the frequently inauthentic Lincoln Park Italian scene.
(p.s. Monica Eng went to the semi-hip Asian Bistro in Arlington Heights and enjoyed its spicy Szechuan offerings, but didn’t care for the Thai and Vietnamese add-ons. Note to restaurateurs: stick with what you know!)
Heather Shouse, on behalf of Chicagoans who spend time downtown, is grateful for the arrival of The Gage, an Irish gastropub that recently opened in the Loop. The old/new interior is both sophisticated and welcoming, creating a perfect spot to drink pretty much anything the liver desires (The Gage dabbles expertly in martinis, whiskies, beers and wines, a quadrafecta that is quite difficult to pull off), and to eat well-prepared, haute-hearty-meaty dishes like locally crafted sausages with crisp brie potato ($18) and roast saddle of elk with mashed potato, juniper berry and rosemary ($33; hell yeah). If you’re not in the mood for a giant entree, consider such drinking accompaniments as fried chicken livers with spicy mustard ($6), or a pint of shrimp with yuzu-chili aioli ($13; y.c.a. sounds brilliant to us). Owner Billy Lawless wanted to create a watering hole with real gravitas anda high enjoyability factor, and so far, it seems as though he’s succeeded.
We intro’d Republic back in mid-April, at which time Chris LaMorte warned that the pan-Asian lounge had better get its act together re: flavor, which ranged from uneven to non-existent. Well, it seems like the Zhang family, who also run Rise and Shine, listened up. This go-around, David Tamarkin found that while not all the dishes were fantastic, they’ve at least gotten the spiciness right, noting that a lemongrass shrimp dish “packed plenty of bite,” and the orange-ginger crème brûlée “kicked in with a tickle to the back of the of the throat, keeping taste buds awake.” This newly acceptable food, along with the “sexy” decor (somehow maintained despite its location in a Sheraton) should permit Republic a chance to show Chicago a good time.
Riccardo is one truly great trattoria [Tribune]
Riccardo Trattoria [MenuPages]
Szechuan spices Asian Bistro fare [Tribune]
New review - The Gage [TOC]
The Gage [MenuPages]
The Gage [Official Site]
New review - Republic [TOC]
Republic [Official Site]
[Photo: The Gage]