Tony Mantuano For Art Institute’s Modern Wing

As long as we’re talking White House Chef, we can strike one name from the list of potential Obama chefs-in-chief. As TOC reported back in July, (and ArtNews reiterates today), Tony Mantuano, the mastermind behind Obama-favorite Spiaggia, will be the executive chef and managing partner at the as-yet-unnamed restaurant in the Art Institute’s new Modern Wing.

Like Spiaggia and its offshoots, the AIC restaurant will focus on Mediterranean flavors (the press release says Mantuano is in the process of finding a “chef di cucina” — no Frenchy chef de cuisine here, grazie very much), and is “hand-selecting” the restaurant’s staff. His wife, Cathy, will be in charge of the wine list.

In a nod to the prevailing culinary trends, Mantuano says “With this new restaurant at the Art Institute, I will continue to create my signature Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, but with a greater emphasis and focus on local, organic and sustainable foods.

Of particular note to us is the fact that this will be the first of the Art Institute’s restaurants to be accessible independently of one of the museum entrances — the press release notes that “guests will have access to the restaurant through the Art Institute as well as via the Nichols Bridgeway–a pedestrian bridge connecting the third floor of the Modern Wing to the southwest corner of the Great Lawn in Millennium Park.” When New York overhauled their Museum of Modern Art, restaurateur Danny Meyer pushed for his in-museum restaurant, The Modern, to have a street entrance separate from MoMA’s own — a detail that attracted a dining crowd that might not otherwise have come,, allowed the restaurant to develop an identity independently of its host institution, and ultimately elevated The Modern exponentially above the usual old-ladies-and-overpriced-salads school of staid museum cuisine.*

Could it be that Mantuano’s venture will follow in this lead? The restaurant is scheduled to open in May of 2009, with a primary focus on lunch service. But here’s hoping they decide to take a cue from The Modern and go whole-hog — position this as a real dining contender, with full dinner service extending even beyond the museum’s closing time.

Art Institute Taps Award-Winning Chef Tony Montano for Upcoming Restaurant at the Modern Wing [ArtDaily]
Spiaggia [MenuPages]
Spiaggia [Official Site]

[Astonishingly awesome photocollage by digital artist Marc Alan Fishman, coauthor of The March, and fastest draw in all of gChat]

*An exception is made for the stellar crappy-pad-thai (as distinct from good-pad-thai) at Sonny’s, the cafe in the School at the Art Institute — if you haven’t gone there, oh man. You must.

Tony Mantuano For Art Institute’s Modern Wing