Lobster caprese from RPM Italian
Lobster caprese, RPM-style

NEW: RPM Italian

A real chef knows how to make any dish sound good. Here’s Doug Psaltis, the chef/partner at River North’s RPM Italian, on his Roman-style artichoke: “We cook it slowly in olive oil so it opens like a flower, constantly raising the temperature so it gets really crispy and steamed with great fragrance from the olive oil. We squeeze a little fresh lemon and add a sprinkle of Italian parsley.” A protégé of Alain Ducasse, Thomas Keller, and David Bouley, Psaltis brings much to the table at RPM, Lettuce Entertain You’s modern spot in the old Ben Pao space. He promises housemade gelato and sorbetto and claims to have experimented with 225 different pastas, from Taleggio and truffle tortellini to duck ravioli with Black Mission figs. “We’re trying to narrow it down to 12,” says Psaltis. To which I respond: Please don’t. 52 W. Illinois St.; 312-222-1888.


Glazed and Infused doughnuts

COMING SOON: Glazed and Infused

Yep, more doughnuts. Before letting your eyes glaze over, hear this: These are the doughnuts of the mighty Scott Harris (Mia Francesca et al.). Their flavors—such as roasted banana and salted caramel, pistachio saffron, and crème brûlée—are the creations of Tom Culleeney, a former Krispy Kreme executive chef, and Christine McCabe, a Charlie Trotter’s alum and Bon Appétit’s 2005 pastry chef of the year. And with outposts opening soon in Wicker Park, the West Loop, and Lincoln Park (the latter two offering throwback Americana-style café dining and Intelligentsia coffee), odds are you won’t have to commute far to get your hands on one. See you in line. glazedandinfuseddoughnuts.com.



In July 2007, Bien Trucha, a no-rez haute-taco mecca in downtown Geneva, opened in a beige box of a building, and by August the wait for tables peaked at two hours. The García-Rubio/Cano family behind BT also leases the property next door, and it sounds like the clan has come up with a new brainchild: A Toda Madre (literally “all about your mother” and slang for “totally awesome”). This similarly small resto will showcase home cooking—wood-grilled fish, chicken, and steak—and take reservations. Awesome indeed. 416 W. State St., Geneva; 630-845-3015.


BUDGET: My Mother’s Kitchen

“Soul food restaurants are not big on appetizers. We go straight to the main event,” says Carol Simmons, chef/owner of this bright and tidy storefront in Galewood. Opened last October, it emphasizes the homey comfort food Simmons grew up with in Natchez, Mississippi. This means plump golden-crusted fried chicken cooked to order and paired with a choice of two sides, such as sweet raisin-studded coleslaw, fried corn, delectably soupy red beans and rice, collard greens, or simple yet satisfying mac and cheese.

Also likely to be simmering in the kitchen are smothered pork steaks, thick slabs of tomato-sauced meat loaf, and, on Fridays, thin, crunchy catfish fillets and a pot of gently spiced gumbo brimming with andouille sausage, dainty shrimp, and crab legs. Check out the blackboards for the day’s offerings: at least three entrées and six sides. An added bonus: More than half the entrées slip in under ten bucks. Service is warm and leisurely, so best not to be in a rush. And if it’s on the boards, don’t leave without a taste of that Southern charmer, peach cobbler—served warm and à la mode, of course. BYO. 6818 W. North Ave.; 773-887-4368.


Photography: Anna Knott