His Ship Has Landed
Trattoria Valle d’Itria (581 Roger Williams Ave., Highland Park; 847-266-0600), a casual retreat that opened in the former Tapis Rouge space April 18th, utilizes the talents of three cousins. Chef Giovanni Chirulli is a Kendall College graduate who worked for the Pacific Princess cruise line—yes, The Love Boat—and studied in restaurants throughout Europe. MaryAnn Carioscia brings catering experience to the table. Maria Giallanza has a business management degree. Their menu covers familiar territory: veal marsala, spaghetti and meatballs, and thin-crusted brick-oven pizza. ”Mike Brown came in from the Bulls last night and he had to have a pizza prosciutto with funghi,” Giallanza says. “Because it reminds him of Italy.” Brown is a massive man who played for years in Italy, so we suspect he knows his food.
Geno Strikes Again
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. In the first week of June, Geno Bahena (Tepatulco, Ixcapuzalco, Chilpancingo) plans to open Real Tenochtitlán (2451 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-227-1050), which will feature . . . wait for it . . . a rotating roster of moles. “We’re going to have the seven famous moles from Oaxaca as well as from the other 31 states of Mexico,” says Bahena about his new BYO spot. “We’ll also focus on organic ingredients and free-range meats. Tortillas made fresh every day to order, from griddle to table.” OK, Geno, you’ve burned us before by opening and closing exciting-sounding restaurants fast. Not this time, right? “Oh, I’ll be there from now until who knows when—until I retire,” he says. “I am 42. I don’t have much time left to play in the kitchen so I have to settle down.”
“Trust me: There is only one man who can satisfy a woman in two minutes—Colonel Sanders.” -Renée Taylor (b. 1933), American actress
4 Questions for Gary Williams
Williams has been the cheese expert at Binny’s for 17 years and at Marshall Field’s for ten years prior to that. He’s currently doing his thing at Binny’s South Loop Store (1132 S. Jefferson St.; 312-768-4400).
D: How did you get into the business?
GW: I was roped into it by my department manager at Marshall Field’s. My sales were poor; I was never on the floor enough. So she got me an assistant manager position on the seventh floor at Field’s on State Street. I had no idea about cheese. Kraft American cheese—that was about it.
D: What did you do?
GW: I arrived in the department and they had 100 cheeses up there and I didn’t know one from the other. A supplier from European Imports, Larry Dinstein, came in every week to explain cheese to me. He told me to take five cheeses a day and set them out to see how they were affected by time and temperature. I thought the smell and the runniness of the cheeses meant they were spoiled, so I threw them away. In reality, they were at their peak. I threw out some of the best cheeses in the world.
D: You’ve said that learning cheese is like a history and geography lesson in one. What does that mean?
GW: In Switzerland, everything is oriented toward the Alps. The grandiose size. The cheese wheels start at 60 pounds and go as high as 200 pounds. That’s because when Swiss farmers brought the cheese to market, there was a tariff to be paid on the road. The more cheese they could bring at one time, the smaller the tariff. The cheeses are rugged like the mountains, like the people.
D: Say you wanted to bring cheeses to a dinner party. What would you bring?
GW: I’d do a flight involving particular milk types. Goat or cow or sheep. You want to bring three cheeses and pair the milder to a stronger. For a milder cheese I’ll start with a soft ripened Brie. And then something a little bit firmer: Ossau Iraty [an aged sheep’s-milk cheese from the Pyrénées]. Third one, I’d bring a stronger cheese: a goat, like Spanish cabrales.
Pollack recently bopped down to Hyde Park to check out Park 52 (5201 S. Harper Ave.; 773-241-5200), Jerry Kleiner’s latest Rorschach-inspired restaurant. It’s typical Kleiner: intense colors, giant lampshades, red velvet curtains. (He must have bolts of red velvet stashed in a warehouse somewhere.) Place was mobbed at 9 p.m. on a weeknight, despite prices that go beyond the usual Hyde Park range. The cheapest apps are nine bucks; $24 for chicken-fried pork doesn’t strike us as particularly neighborhood-friendly. She tried a wedge salad, crispy chicken strips, and shrimp and grits. The first was too limp; the second was too dineresque, and the third too copycat. Other than that, she liked the place.
An Aptly Named Spot
The Little India Restaurant (1109 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.; 773-728-7012), a 40-seat Edgewater spot from Mumtaz Rizvi (Kanval Palace, Zam Zam), opened at the beginning of April. The menu includes all the standards: tandoori mixed grill, chicken tikka masala, chicken madras, a wide selection of vegetarian options. “I rebuilt the whole thing [the space used to house Franko’s Pizza],” says Rizvi, “And people really appreciate that I put in a nice, cozy restaurant.”
Things to Do
1. Do dinner and a movie at Copperblue (580 E. Illinois St.; 312-527-1200) on April 28th. The restaurant is showing The Conversation and offering a three-course wine dinner ($79), followed by a discussion of the film with University of Chicago film/literature professor Elliott Krick.
2. Drink some great wines at discounted prices on April 25th at D.O.C. Wine Bar (2602 N. Clark St.; 773-883-5101), which offers “Millionaire Flights” for $25 to $45 every Friday. This week it’s French reds.
3. Read Mike Nagrant’s smart story about the conception and birth of Mado (1647 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-342-2340), Rob and Allison Levitt’s new Bucktown spot.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Steve Geffen (Once Upon a Bagel), who recently closed La Casa del Gordo in Highland Park, plans to open another Once Upon a Bagel in Buffalo Grove this summer. . . . Rick Bayless (Topolobampo), Jackie Shen (Red Light), Shawn McClain (Spring), Arun Sampanthavivat (Arun’s), and Art Smith (Table Fifty-Two) have been invited to cook at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., on May 7th, to promote this summer’s 28th annual Taste of Chicago. . . . As reported by Time Out Chicago, Michael Taus (Zealous) and the guys behind West Town’s Lumen are opening Duchamp, a casual spot in the old Meritage space (2118 N. Damen Ave.) this summer. . . . Gordon Ramsay hits town on April 29th to sign his new cookbook, Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food (Key Porter), at Macy’s Chicago’s culinary kitchen (111 N. State St.; lower level). The pandemonium begins at 1 p.m.