Spaghetti with morels and lemon ricotta

Playing the Piano
Pollack and one of her favorite Dish spies couldn’t resist checking out lunch at Terzo Piano a few short weeks after the long awaited spot—touting a Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia) menu—opened its doors. A full review will appear in an upcoming issue of Chicago magazine.

Terzo Piano (159 E. Monroe St., Art Institute of Chicago; 312-443-8650) looks sensational—white and beige and minimalist as suits its home, The Modern Wing of the Art Institute. It pays to order bottled water just to see how the blue-colored glass pops against the monochromatic backdrop of the room.
Tony Mantuano’s menu is so appealing it’s heartbreaking to select a single dish. So when our delightful waitress explained that we could order the salads as “halfsies,” I almost cried for joy. A half order of the pea salad ($9.50) would leave room for the Chesapeake Bay soft shell crab sandwich ($18).
As of this minute, peas are my favorite vegetable. Peas picked fresh from the earth, that is. Tiny sweet peas, delicate pea tendrils, and snappy pea shoots laced with the thinnest ever La Quercia pancetta crisps and perfectly glossed with subtle shallot vinaigrette. Salads don’t get better than this.
While I was busy scarfing down the last of the peas, my guest had a field day with her olive oil–whipped smoked whitefish ($9). The rich and creamy fish spread on a rosemary potato flat made me rethink my stance on whitefish (i.e.: it’s boring). Each of us was certain we had ordered the best appetizer.
The soft shell crab sandwich brings three amazing elements together inside one brioche roll: crunchy avocado slaw, sturdy black peppercorn bacon, and juicy soft shells. It’s tough to bite through this stack without everything sliding here and there, but what’s the worst that could happen? You use your fork to finish it off. And a lemony toss of mesclun keeps everything light and bright.
The handmade pasta ($18) holds the season’s yummiest morels; as if that wasn’t pleasure enough the noodles are topped with fresh Parmesan crumbles and a scoop of lemon ricotta that melts its way down through the al dente strands.
I didn’t save room for dessert, but as I walked down the gangplank bridge that let us off in Millennium Park, I thought, I can hardly wait to try the almond financier with strawberry rhubarb salad and crème fraîche sorbet.
BTW: If you think of Terzo as a ladies-who-lunch spot, you might be right. But any guy who shuns Terzo for fear of chick-shtick in the afternoon is a damned fool.