Unconditional Italian

. . . To Grandmother’s House We Go

Scott Harris (Mia Francesca) and Patrick Concannon (Don Juan’s) plan to open a rustic Italian spot called Osteria Ottimo (16111 S. La Grange Rd., Orland Park; 708-403-3366) around the New Year. “It’s going to feel as though it’s been there for a hundred years,” says Concannon, who has been a corporate chef at Francesca’s for the past six years. “Old barn wood, lots of brick, white mosaic tile.” The 130-seat spot will also feature an open kitchen, a glassed-in antipasti area, and straight-up Italian comfort food: lasagne…

. . . To Grandmother’s House We Go

Scott Harris (Mia Francesca) and Patrick Concannon (Don Juan’s) plan to open a rustic Italian spot called Osteria Ottimo (16111 S. La Grange Rd., Orland Park; 708-403-3366) around the New Year. “It’s going to feel as though it’s been there for a hundred years,” says Concannon, who has been a corporate chef at Francesca’s for the past six years. “Old barn wood, lots of brick, white mosaic tile.” The 130-seat spot will also feature an open kitchen, a glassed-in antipasti area, and straight-up Italian comfort food: lasagne bolognese; plenty of meatballs; a chalkboard touting fish, game, and other seasonal specialties; homemade gelati and sorbetti. “Ask an Italian where to get the best food,” says Concannon. “It’s either their mother’s or their grandmother’s house. We want our customers to identify with those things.” BTW: Harris still plans to open Franco & Nella (2423 N. Clark St.), a Neapolitan pizzeria with Nella Grassano (Spacca Napoli), in March.

Quotable

“The pig, if I am not mistaken, gives us ham and pork and bacon. Let others think his heart is big, I think it stupid of the pig.” –Ogden Nash (1902-1971), American poet and humorist

Sounds Good

Z & H MarketCafe (1126 E. 47th St.; 773-538-7372), a six-week-old spot in Kenwood, has a huge buzz in the neighborhood. “We didn’t know anyone doing a combination of best in class,” says Sam Darrigrand, a partner. “It’s got a high-quality espresso café; well-made sandwiches; the only cut-to-order specialty cheese shop south of Roosevelt Road. And groceries as well. We wanted to re-create the old neighborhood grocery store, but stepped up.” The 1,750-square-foot space has much to recommend it: offbeat cheeses such as Garrotxa, a Catalonian goat’s milk selection; house-roasted chickens; breads from Labriola; coffee from Intelligentsia. But perhaps the best asset of Z & H (named for the owners’ grandparents, Zaleski & Horvath) is timing, considering they opened in the heart of Obamaville one week before their neighbor got elected president. “We watch their motorcade drive by twice a day,” says Darrigrand. “We keep waiting. We have done catering for their neighbors.”

Bummer of the Week

After three years in Lake Point Tower (580 E. Illinois St.), Copperblue has closed. “My partner and I want to go in different directions,” says Michael Tsonton, chef-owner. “Victor [Newgren] got lured away by Lawry’s (100 E. Ontario St.; 312-787-5000). He’s the new executive chef there. He starts full time on December 21st. I have no idea what I will do next. We owned the property as well, and I believe it will remain a restaurant but I’m not sure.”

Rebuilding the Hauss

Adding to the raft of restaurant closings this past week, Haussmann Brasserie, Jacky Plutons seven-month-old venture in the cursed space at 305 Happ Road in Northfield, has shut down. Pluton, who shuttered the place a few days ago, did not return calls for this item. But we did talk to Ann Kane, Northfield’s community development director, who filled us in about Pluton’s plans to reopen as JP Tavern. “We are thrilled with the new concept—a more casual tavern. It’s a perfect fit for this location,” she said. “Pluton is aiming for the end of this month but I think it will be ambitious if it opens by mid-January.” Apparently Kane doesn’t believe in curses.

The Kids Will Love It

“We’re doing frosting shots. They look like mini cupcakes but they are frosting. It’s for the people who want that extra sweetness. You just squeeze it in your mouth.” –Teresa Ging, owner of a soon-to-open cupcake shop in the Loop, Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique (115 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-845-9669)

Doom 21

Room 21 (2110 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-328-1198), Jerry Kleiner’s slick American spot, is morphing into what Kleiner calls a more affordable regional Italian thing. “You have to adapt and adjust,” he says. “Can’t wait for the tsunami to hit you.” The space will close for a few weeks in January to redevelop and reopen in February under a new name. (“We like the ‘21’ aspect of it,” says Kleiner. “Something with ‘21.’”) The chef, Dan Tucker, will be out, and Jim Kilberg (Coco Pazzo Café, Gioco) will head up the restaurant, which will include food stations and an antipasto display. “You will visually be surrounded with food,” says Kleiner. “It will be fun and energetic. Really eclectic, regional, seasonal, local, organic, market fresh.” Hey, Kleiner, maybe you should call it Kitchen Sink 21.

Deals to Look Into

  1. On Wednesday nights at John’s Place (1200 W. Webster Ave.; 773-525-6670), all pub burgers are $4 and all 12-ounce beers are $3.
  2. On Christmas Eve, The Fifty/50 (2047 W. Division St.; 773-489-5050) caters to Jewish patrons with $1 Manischewitz glasses and $5 “Dreydel shots,” a potato vodka/Goldschlager concoction. You don’t have to be Jewish to be served, but if you’re Christian and you’re doing dreydel shots on Christmas Eve, we’re worried about you.
  3. On Sunday nights, Carlucci (1801 Butterfield Rd., Downers Grove; 630-512-0990) has a three-course, $16 family-style dinner, plus make-your-own pizza and a live magician, The Amazing Brando.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Shiso (449 W. North Ave.; 312-649-1234), a 33-seat Japanese BYO, has opened in Old Town. . . . You probably read (www3.timeoutny.com/chicago /blog/out-and-about/?p=10495) about the drama at Mantou Noodle Bar (1633 N. Milwaukee Ave.), the promising five-week-old spot that shocked everyone by closing abruptly. “I don’t want to be negative,” says Rick Spiros, the chef/non-equity partner regarding the mess. “I’m not that guy.” A representative of the restaurant says that “it plans to reopen fairly soon.”. . . UFood Grill, a Boston-based chain that serves “better-for-you versions of fast-food favorites,” has opened its second Chicago location, this one in the South Loop (823 S. State St.; 312-922-0900). . . . Learn to prepare a slew of good holiday stuff, including chocolate-covered caramelized macadamia nuts, at a cooking demo on December 13th by Big Red Oven’s Eden Rosenbush at Cambium (113-119 W. Hubbard St.). Call 773-818-6836 to register; $45. . . . Garrett Popcorn, which always becomes more crucial around the holidays, has opened a Holiday Express at 625 North Michigan Avenue. The patron entrance is on Ontario Street. . . . Wicker Park’s new Milwood Pizza Burgers & More (1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-772-6000), with its delightfully specific name, is an upscale burger joint that also does wood-burning-oven pizza.

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