Toni Patisserie’s downtown goodies

BUDGET BEAT: Toni Patisserie & Café

Just when you think that civilization has totally gone to hell in a handbasket, a sweet spot like Toni Patisserie opens. For starters, there’s the location, on the ground floor of the good old Pittsfield Building, in which a reassuring number of lovely circa-1927 architectural details remain intact. The counter-service MO and peaceful vibe make it ideal for a quick bite in conjunction with shopping or a visit to the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, or a Loop theatre. Finally, and most important, the food—classic French baguette sandwiches, salads, soups, savory tarts, and pastries—is terrific. I deeply dug my Asiago cheese bisque ($4.95), the two sandwiches I tried (Le Banh Mi, $9.75, and Le Breton, $7.25), a generous wedge of quiche Lorraine ($6.25), and a tasty little tomato-basil tart ($5.95). The elegant desserts made my head spin, especially the Paris-Brest ($5.50) and the intense salted-caramel chocolate tart ($5.25). Toni Marie Cox has been operating a similar café in Hinsdale since 1994; we’re happy she has now brought her act downtown. 65 E. Washington St.; 312-726-2020.


COMING: Pizzeria da Nella Cucina Napoletana

Nella Grassano has been on hiatus from the Neapolitan pizza scene for more than a year, and we have been jonesing for the masterfully torched crust she first hooked us with at Spacca Napoli in 2006. This month, the Naples-born third-generation pizzaiola resurfaces with a 90-seat Lincoln Park spot. Deftly manning a 1,200-degree wood-burning oven crafted with bricks straight from Mount Vesuvius, Grassano will pump out 25 varieties of pizza, reinstating the classics and supplementing them with specialties such as a pie with burrata, mozzarella di bufala, and grilled zucchini. Arrivederci, New Year’s resolutions. 1443 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-281-6600.


COMING: Storefront Company

Farm-to-table is so 2011. Bryan Moscatello bills his fare as “farm cuisine/modern cooking.” The concept is less Midwest-centric than its predecessor: “It’s more about being well sourced than anything else, and we want partners who take an environmentally correct approach,” Moscatello notes. A monkfish—which he pairs with short-rib fried rice—comes from marine biologist friends in Santa Barbara and gets cooked sous vide to add dimension. (That must be the “modern” bit.) Basically, Moscatello is evolving the farm-to-table movement by tweaking traditional techniques to create more refined presentations. Confused? So are we. But we’re also interested. 1941 W. North Ave.; 773-661-2609.


Photograph: Anna Knott