Theocracy in Action

“Despite the economy seeming to decline, our business has increased every month in a lot of ways,” says Theo Gilbert, chef-partner of Terragusto (1851 W. Addison St.; 773-248-2777). “We still turn away a couple of hundred people every week, so we’re opening a small restaurant similar to Terragusto to handle the overflow.” The new Terragusto (340 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-281-7200) bows this Friday (January 23rd) in the same mini shopping center as Geja’s with 30 seats, a liquor license, and later hours for people in the industry (and for the rest of you, too). Gilbert will be spending most of his time at the new location, while Lauren McAvinchey, Gilbert’s sous-chef (who has done most of the cooking at the original Terragusto for eight months), will continue to run that kitchen.

Prime Time Again

Chicago Prime Steakhouse (1444 E. Algonquin Rd., Schaumburg; 847-969-9900) relocated last week from its longtime home on Bank Drive in Schaumburg to a 255-seat spot in the Shops at Prime Village. Andy-John G. Kalkounos, the owner’s son and a manager, says the new space has live entertainment seven days a week, and “for a steakhouse, it’s as romantic as it gets.” And George Kalkounos, the owner, cuts plenty of the prime wet-aged beef himself.Every now and then he goes back there in a jacket and tie,” says Andy-John. “Takes off the jacket. Leaves on the tie. Puts on an apron, rolls up his sleeves and goes to work.”


“Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities between the two but can’t remember what they are.” –Matt Lauer (b. 1957), American TV personality 

Opening Today

Jack Sanseeha, the owner of Bodhi Thai Bistro (6211 W. Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn; 708-484-9250)—which he calls the only Thai restaurant in Berwyn—is one of those guys who grew up in the restaurant business. “My family owns several in Chicago,” he says. “Opart Thai House. That’s my cousin. Another cousin owns Amarit.” When Sanseeha moved to Berwyn in 2003, he found out that the closest Thai places in Oak Park would not deliver to Berwyn. So, with the help of the Berwyn Development Corporation, he opened his 75-seat vegetarian-focused spot with his father (Veera Sanseeha) and stepmother (Vilairat Junthong; formerly of Sticky Rice) on January 21st—Jack’s birthday. Expect dishes such as mini sweet-corn-and-taro fritters, and spicy green papaya salad with chile garlic lime dressing.

Messy Jackson

Phil Lotsoff, the owner of Jackson Park Bar and Grill (444 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-644-7200), is hopeful that the long-awaited project will bow at the end of March. “It still may work out,” he says. “Obviously the economy has hit us very hard, but we are still working on it. We have a beautiful spot and a beautiful location.” Lotsoff says he may “possibly” have a new chef to replace Jason Paskewitz, who left the project back in November.

Three’s the Charm

On December 12th, the husband-and-wife team of Giampalao Sassi and Luisa Silvia Marani added La Trattoria del Merlo (1967 N. Halsted St.; 312-951-8200) to their growing family of restaurants (Merlo, Merlo on Maple). More of the same, thought Pollack—overpriced, underwhelming, sometimes authentic Italian. Not so fast. Someone at this baby sib gets it oh-so right. The olive oil house-cured yellowfin tuna with French-style green beans, simple as can be, is the real deal, as is a tangle of al dente farro flour spaghetti sautéed with white wine, fresh herbs, garlic, pine nuts, and a touch of cream. Along with dinner, Pollack ate her words. Every one of them.

5 Questions for Paula Haney

Paula Haney, of local pastry and pie fame, is opening a retail bakery, Hoosier Mama Pie Company (1618 1/2 Chicago Avenue), on March 14th.

D: You’ve had an exciting career as a talented pastry chef [Trio, One Sixtyblue]. How did you settle on pies?
PH: I always had it in the back of my mind. I always loved pie. My husband and I were always out looking for pies.

D: When did you start Hoosier?
PH: Three years ago in October. But I had been working on my pie crust recipe for a while and decided to jump in with both feet. We started out supplying some coffeehouses around town. Metropolis in Andersonville. Dollop on Clarendon.  Then we started doing farmers’ markets and that was a lot of fun.

D: So tell us about your new space.
PH: It’s pretty little, but we are going to have three tables where you can come in and have pie and coffee. Probably five to ten varieties of pie [$18 to $25; slices $3.50 to $4]. We will have one cake of the day because some of my best friends are cake people.

D: What kinds of cake?
PH: One of my favorites that we are going to spruce up a bit is hummingbird cake. The ones I had growing up had canned crushed pineapple, but we are going to make our own candied pineapple. We’re going to make everything in house. You can see the whole kitchen so you can watch us make pies. I think we will be baking all day. We want them as fresh as possible.

D: Is your husband [Craig Siegelin] involved too?
PH: It’s my day job but not his. But he does peel a lot of apples.

He Said It

“We will do Buffalo vs. Idaho. That’s organically raised chicken wings laid inside a large double-stuffed twice-baked potato. Really beautiful true Neapolitan pizzas. And sumo calamari, which will resemble the sumo ring that they wrestle in. It’s a curried calamari and tempura green beans with sweet and sour sauce in a little basket held by a clay figurine of a sumo wrestler. I don’t want to call it bar food . . . that has a horrible connotation. But comfortable, fun things to eat. –Joe Rosetti, chef of Market on Randolph (1113 W. Randolph St.), a 4,000-square-foot sports tavern from Karl Spector (principal owner) and Kenny Williams (GM of the Chicago White Sox) opening on April 1st

Cheap Things to Do

  1. Go to Eve (840 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-266-3383) for lunch, and look into the Gold Coast spot’s $7 weekly lunch specials.
  2. Get free coffee and samples of grilled breakfast sandwiches at any Panera Bread location on January 28th. While you’re there, be a sport and donate a dollar to help support its Community Breadbox effort. The company will match customer donations up to $250 per outlet made on that day.
  3. Check out the lobby bar at C-House (Affinia Chicago; 166 E. Superior St., 312-523-0923) on Wednesdays between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., when you can get two fish tacos and a beer for $9.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

The sign outside Chinatown’s Moon Palace (216 W. Cermak Rd.) reads, “Closed for remodeling, will re-open soon.” Funny thing is, we believe it. . . . A chef saving a food writer’s life? This is too good to make up. . . . Bull & Bear (431 N. Wells St.; 312-527-5973), the upscale River North sports bar from the guys behind Stone Lotus, opens on January 22nd. . . . Pollack went swoonful over the chocolate hazelnut cupcake at the new Sugar Bliss (115 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-845-9669).