La Madia
“We are doing a new concept for pizza, taking a more refined approach,” says Jonathan Fox, the owner of River North’s newest pizza haunt. To that end, Fox commissioned Torino-born chef, Gianni Zonca, to develop a crust that’s inspired by contemporary Italian pizza but has a little bit more crispness. Is Zonca up to the task? He learned the pizza trade 25 years ago in his mother’s pizzeria back in Sardinia and he’s been at it all over the world—Buenos Aires, Vancouver, and Follia here in Chicago—ever since. “Give me flour. I can build a mountain,” says Zonca. “I love flour.” 59 W. Grand Ave.; 312-329-0400. –Penny Pollack

Brix Wood Fired Pizza

Bill Wilson laughs when it’s mentioned that his name does not exactly give off pizza guy vibes. But, hey, his wife Donna’s maiden name is Quartello, and Wilson knows his pies. Their tidy, “fast-casual” parlor (order at the counter; food is delivered to your table), housed in downtown Lombard, boasts a formidably high-powered wood-burning brick oven that’s more than up to the job. It turns out a thin, light crust, slightly chewy and crisp around the edges. Toppings are impeccably fresh and laid out with a deft touch. It takes no more than a bite of the Green With Envy ($8.95), spread with pesto, mozzarella, and a delectable dice of marinated Roma tomatoes, to woo a convert. Nubs of molten sausage fire up the appropriately titled Spicy Sausage ($8.95), and vegetarians will revel in the Very Veggie ($10.95), where those good Romas cavort with mushrooms, onions, spinach, and red and yellow peppers. Pep it up further by adding roasted garlic, or creating your own pizza from more than two dozen toppings—everything from prosciutto to portobellos. And then there are the sandwiches, served on warm, crusty baguettes. Try the plump, juicy chicken pesto ($6.95) or the stromboli, a snappy gathering of sausage, onions, and melted mozzarella topped with pizza sauce. No BYO or booze on hand, but there are soft drinks aplenty. 104 W. St. Charles Rd., Lombard; 630-691-1900. –Jill Rohde

Exposure Tapas Supper Club

When I heard the stats—4,000 square feet upstairs, 12,000 square feet downstairs—I was skeptical. When I heard the mission, a large bar and lounge atmo with a separate area for live entertainment, and food offered throughout the restaurant, I slipped over the line to cynicism. Imagine my surprise when I loved the clever lyonnaise-style bistro salad nested in an edible fried-potato basket and topped with an over-easy fried egg that coats the lettuces for a warm dressing. Feta cheese provided imaginative company to yummy roasted red and yellow peppers, and the chicken breast was downright juicy. Pardon me while I eat my words. 1315 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-662-1082. –Penny Pollack

Brasserie Ruhlmann
“This place is going to take the French brasserie in Chicago to the next level,” says Miae Lim, a principal/owner in the new Brasserie Ruhlmann. Bold words, Miae. But we take them seriously, considering you made similar boasts when you opened Mirai Sushi in 1999 and Japonais in 2003—and delivered on both counts. The Ruhlmann team, which includes principal/partner and superstar designer Jean Denoyer and veteran chef Christian Delouvrier, hopes to replicate the graceful Art Deco vibe of its père in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza. Delouvrier, an alum of Alain Ducasse at the Essex House, may be fiftysomething, but his enthusiasm for beer-hall classics like steak tartare and mussels marinières is catching. “Every ingredient is so important to him,” says Lim. “And a true chef can do food at any level.” 500 W. Superior St.; 312-494-1900.  –Jeff Ruby


Photography: (LA MADIA) Tyllie Barbosa Food Styling: Christina Zerkis (DELOUVRIER) Anna Knott