You’d be forgiven for worrying about Americano 2211 (2211 W. North Ave., Wicker Park, 773-360-8757). Only two months after opening in the former Birchwood space, co-owners Chris Pappas and Nancy Silver lost their chef. Citing a forthcoming personal project, young star Fred Noinaj (Avec, Analogue) left some big shoes to fill. But, a few weeks ago, a light appeared at the end of the tunnel in the form of chef Trevor Fleming. Not only has he taken command of the kitchen—he’s overseeing Americano’s expansion into dinner service.
Fleming, whose CV includes stints at Table Fifty-Two and Farmhouse, caught Pappas’s eye when he began filling in at the Winchester, “kind of like a mercenary, while I was looking for my next job.”
In fact, Pappas was so taken with Fleming’s chops that he decided to forgo the traditional tasting-menu test for new chefs. Pappas says that “Fleming’s approach to food reinforces the old expression that ‘less is more.’”
So far, that approach has included lots of reading for Fleming and lots of tasting for the owners. In addition to picking up the slack at breakfast and lunch, Fleming gets to flex his creative muscles on Americano’s dinner service, which began last week. The menu draws heavily on his bosses’ travels through the Mediterranean, with a focus on spices, wines, and presentations popular throughout the region.
That includes pintxos—think mini-tapas—such as crostini topped with labneh (a Lebanese yogurt-cheese), eggplant jam, and roasted tomatoes. Dinner service begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday with discount pintxos and drink specials from 4 to 6 p.m.
Early favorites from the large plate selection include shishito peppers with preserved lemon, walnut, and burnt thyme, and a grilled chicken glazed with date honey. The popular shakshuka from Americano’s brunch menu also makes an appearance. Everything is shareable and, Fleming says, as locally sourced as possible. “Right now, we really want to showcase the beautiful veggies we can get right here in Chicago—we’re going to the market several times a week.”
For dessert, Nancy Silver (who, in case you forgot, previously crafted sweets for Blackbird) still reigns supreme. Currently featured: her rosemary and sea salt shortcake with mascarpone and roasted peaches.