Chef Ryan Poli, who had a huge following at Butter, has returned to Chicago to become the chef de cuisine at Perennial (1800 N. Lincoln Ave.), the upcoming spot from Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm (Boka, Landmark). “Things just sometimes don’t work out the way you want them to,” Poli says of his recent jaunt to Phoenix, Arizona. “So I decided to come back to Chicago. It’s where my passion is.” Poli also spent about a year interning in various standouts in Spain, including El Celler de Can Roca with Joan and Jordi Roca in Girona. “In Europe, you just show up and say, ‘I’m here to do a stage. Do you have room for me?’” Poli says. . . . Anyway, Perennial: Turns out Boehm and Poli have the same hairstylist, who persuaded the two to connect. Next thing you know, Poli is in Perennial’s kitchen, joining the executive chef, Giuseppe Tentori, in tinkering over playful inventions such as a surf-and-turf appetizer of ahi tuna and a New York strip carpaccio—and introducing a dish he learned in Spain: “inside-out flan,” a purée of white chocolate flan with ginger ice cream, warm passion fruit jelly, and caramelized pumpkinseeds. Keep an eye on this one.
Trattoria Pizzeria I Monelli (5019 N. Western Ave.; 773-561-8499), a 36-seat spot from Marco Schiavoni (Pizza Metro), Giovanni Carzedda (former chef of Pizza D.O.C.), and Massimiliano Agostini (an Italian food importer), opened March 31st. “The food is very Italian and very simple,” says Agossini. “Great ingredients and with a smile. Roman-style square pizza, bucatina all’amatriciana, antipasti, salads, panini, panna cotta. Giovanni is a pastry-chef-slash-pizzamaker.” Sounds good, and it’s BYO. “There’s a liquor store across the street,” Agossini says. “Very sweet, nice woman. She might buy some better wines and lower the prices just for our customers. We brought her some lasagne today and she was very happy.”
“A waffle is like a pancake with a syrup trap.” –Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005), American comedian
7 Questions for Rob Levitt
Levitt and his wife, Allison Levitt (veterans of del Toro, 312 Chicago, and La Tache), plan to open Mado, a 65-seat Mediterranean spot, in the old Barcello’s space (1647 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-342-2340) some time this month.
D: First things first. What’s the name mean?
RL: It’s pronounced “MA-dough.” Name comes from Ma Gastronomie about Fernand Point. If you read the story of La Pyramide, his nickname for his wife was “Mado.” Nothing made it onto the menu until Mado approved. It’s a testament to the husband-and-wife relationship. That’s what it’s all about for my wife and me.
D: You are equal partners in everything?
RL: Absolutely. We go to the market together and I say, What do you want me to make? It’s kind of how we want the restaurant to go: Everything will be a discussion about what we would both like to have.
D: You’re savory and she’s sweet? This is getting too cute for words.
RL: She’s very sweet. She’s the pastry chef and has been one for a long time.
D: How would you describe the food at Mado?
RL: Good simple cooking with a heavy Mediterranean influence. We’re Italo-philes, but we love Spain and Morocco and southern France. Panini. Lots of antipasti. Homemade pastas. A wood-burning grill and a rotisserie. I’m getting whole pigs and lambs. Out of respect for the animal, I will be using every part of it.
D: Did you gut the space?
RL: We haven’t done a lot [décorwise]. But our tabletops will be made out of depressed bamboo plywood. A renewable resource. Trying for as much eco-friendly resources as we can. We will compost in the kitchen. A farmer will take our compost and use it for his plants.
D: Price point?
RL: The menu is very simple and the dishes are very simple. The European model. If you order leg of lamb, you are getting leg of lamb and some accompaniment and a choice of a side. Entrées should top out around $18.
D: We hear you’re doing takeout, too?
RL: We want to open up to the community. Hoping to get some business from people who want to take home things off the rotisserie, or start the day with homemade pastries and delicious coffee.
More Boys from Brazil
Churrasco Brazil (541 W. North Ave., Villa Park; 630-832-0877), the latest competitor in an evergrowing market, is slated to open April 18th. “The bottom line is that we are going to be the most traditional Brazilian steak house in Chicago,” says Marcelo Rocha, a partner and a former meat chef at Sal & Carvao. Things might look familiar if you’ve been to Fogo de Chão or Brazzaz—the salad bar, the countless cuts of meat, the giant space—but it’s only $35 for dinner. (both Fogo and Brazzaz are $48.50.) “And we have the best meat chef in Chicago, Valdir Torcato,” Rocha says. “He was the first guy at Sal & Carvao. He does the meats exactly the way we do in Brazil: the way we marinate it, prepare it, cut it, everything. If you want to feel like you are in Brazil, stop by.”
“Our chef makes truly fantastic dishes. It’s amazing that we have enough food for everyone.” –Ted Salievski, owner of My Way Ristorante (8116 S. Archer Ave., Willow Springs; 708-839-1600), on the Italian spot’s Web site.
Lush (1306 S. Halsted St.; 312-738-1900), the wine shop owned by Cliff and Mitch Einhorn (Twisted Spoke), is moving across the street to 1257 South Halsted by the end of April. “The space lays out better,” says Cliff Einhorn. “It has a patio, so we can do events and what not.” And if you can’t wait till you get home to open the bottle you bought, Lush will provide glassware and you can drink it on the patio. “The place functions as a wine bar but much cheaper because there’s no corkage,” Einhorn says. “And it will be BYOF [Bring Your Own Food].”
Things to Do
- Read this promising preview of Graham Elliot (217 W. Huron St.; 312-624-9975), the upcoming spot from Graham Elliot Bowles.
- Check out the ridiculous amounts of tchotchkes you can buy from Cinners (4757 N. Talman Ave.; 773-654-1624), a new Cincinnati-style “chili parlour and cocktail lounge” near Lincoln Square. Throw pillows? Dog T-shirts? Thong underwear? I mean, we like Cincinnati and all, but come on.
- Learn to recharge your iPod with a durian and a lime.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Sweet Tamarind, a reliable Thai spot at 1408 West Diversey Parkway, has moved to 1034 West Belmont Avenue, where it has its grand opening on April 7th. . . . Moe’s Southwest Grill, a fast-growing chain from Focus Brands Inc. (Cinnabon, Carvel) with locations in Northbrook, Gurnee, and Deer Park, plans to open 20 additional outlets in the Chicago area. . . . The Martha Stewart Show featured the chocolate passion cupcake from Swirlz Cupcakes (705 W. Belden Ave.; 773-404-2253) this week. . . . Ryan McCaskey, the chef at Courtright’s (8989 S. Archer Ave., Willow Springs; 708-839-8000), is parting ways with the southwest suburban legend. Once a new chef is found, McCaskey will leave for the Pacific Northwest with dreams of opening a restaurant there.