Special Relativity

“The first time we ever spoke, I said I was an anti-chain person,” Alexander Brunacci told us. True to form, Brunacci’s second restaurant, instead of becoming a sister to Franks ’n’ Dawgs, will be more of a cousin, with the same street-food-meets-fine-dining flavors but branching out from hot dogs. Scheduled to open in May, The Peasantry (2723 N. Clark St.; no phone yet) doesn’t have a menu yet, but some broad concepts are gyros made from ingredients like baby octopus, duck, or venison; duck wings prepared in buffalo-wing style; escargots; frog legs; grilled flatbreads; and house-made pastas. A few of the house-made sausages and the signature lobster-roll bun from Franks ’n’ Dawgs will probably make the trip as well. The Peasantry will have table service and a liquor license (if the city agrees), unlike Franks ’n’ Dawgs. Prices will range from around $6 to $16. Close cousins, to be sure, with Franks ’n’ Dawgs playing The Patty Duke Show’s Patty to The Peasantry’s Cathy, except maybe without the upper-crustiness. Franks ’n’ Dawgs has to be Patty, of course, because a hot dog makes her lose control.



“Cookery is as old as the world, but it must also remain, always, as modern as fashion.”
—Phileas Gilbert (1857–1942), French cook and author 


Into the Woods

Although Firefly closed on the main drag of Boystown in Lake View, the space is staying sylvan with Wood (3335 N. Halsted St.; no phone yet), a restaurant and bar that we first heard about from 312 Dining Diva. The owner, Franco Gianni, whose family also owns Tank Sushi in Lincoln Square and Sushi Wabi in the West Loop, says the 50 seats will be divided evenly between the bar and dining areas. Heading up the food will be Ashlee Aubin, a veteran of Zealous and a former chef de partie at Alinea, creating American seasonal small plates in the style of the menu from his audition, which included homemade tagliatelle with arugula, shallots, and pork confit, as well as smoked char with beets, orange, and rye. A gas- and wood-burning oven made by Earthstone will turn out flatbreads. On the bar side, Wood will specialize in ryes, bourbons, scotches, and other whiskeys aged in wood barrels. A walk-up window selling Belgian fries with dipping sauces will stay open late. “This is for those late-night people who leave the bars and need a little food in their stomachs,” Gianni says. “We will be there for them.” He hopes to open by Memorial Day, knock on wood.


Eight Questions for Kristine Subido

Subido and her mother, Melinda Subido, plan to open a Filipino chicken casual spot in Uptown (near the intersection of Clark Street and Montrose Avenue) called Pecking Order, which we first heard about on Eater. She has worked at Wave in the in the W Chicago Lakeshore for ten years.

Dish: Have you brought any Filipino cooking to Wave?
Kristine Subido: I snuck it in. Some of the ingredients, and I tweaked some of the preparations. It was really interesting and fun to see reactions from people. [People order] the number-one selling dish, and they have no idea they are eating a Filipino dish.

D: What dish is that?
KS: [It’s] my version of a traditional chicken adobo, typically a one-pot dish. Add your pieces of chicken and vinegar and other ingredients. I took the chicken, deboned it into a semi-boneless, and marinated it. And then grilled it for presentation’s sake. When you come from a culture that most dishes are one-pot dishes, presentation is not always there. Filipino food is very flavorful, but we lack in presentation, so maybe that’s why our food hasn’t had a breakthrough yet.

D: Is that your goal with Pecking Order?
KS: [It’s] definitely one of them. I thought chicken would be a great introduction for that because it’s a common ingredient that everyone, myself included, eats three to five days a week.

D: What’s the chicken like at Pecking Order?
KS: There are some different preparations: rotisserie, grilled, and fried. We want to make sure that the chicken is juicy, so there is brining and marinating. This came from my grandfather, [who] was a butcher and a really good cook. This is a marinade based on his marinade, tweaked by me. It was passed on to my mom and she passed it on to me. There will be three types of sauces that will always be served with the chicken. Growing up in the Philippines, there is always this banana ketchup that we all love, even though people may think it’s kind of weird. There is a sauce called lechón sauce.

D: Lechón means pork, right?
KS: The lechón sauce in the Philippines is traditionally served with pork, but the sauce can be used for different things. There is a little bit of chicken liver in it. And then there will be vinegar and brown sugar and some other ingredients in there. [The third sauce is] a dipping sauce, which would be more of a citrus-fish sauce base.

D: You’re originally from the Philippines?
KS: I was born and raised in the Philippines, and I came here in 1985, so I was almost 9 years old. I still have a lot of family there. My mother cooks Filipino daily.

D: Do you and your mother live together?
KS: We do. We have a two-flat, and she lives downstairs and I live upstairs.

D: It seems like you must get along very well. That right?
KS: We have very different personalities. She is very intense: “If you are on time, you are late.” She calls me Photo Finish. I’m always on time, but I make her nervous. I have the reputation of being easygoing and she is the go-go-go person. We balance each other very well. We are like yin and yang.


Updated Listing: Spiaggia

New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Spiaggia’s listing maintained its four-star rating in its update in the March issue, on newsstands now.

Spiaggia (980 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-280-2750). Italian.
$$$$ ($50-plus per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)

No wonder this exquisite, soaring room is a destination for visiting foodies and the Obamas: Tony Mantuano takes the finest delicacies, from Savini black truffles to Venetian clams, and fashions some of the best Italian food this side of the Atlantic. Crescenza-filled ravioletto with porcini mushrooms, nepitella (herb), and Tuscan pine nuts, finished with crumbled barilotto di bufala cheese, is stunning, as is wood-roasted black cod with abalone mushrooms, bottarga, and basil-fed snails. There’s a great cheese program, but it’s hard to ignore the huckleberry brioche with passion fruit sorbetto.

For the dishes we liked best, click here.


Making the Cut

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Russell Kook was hired as chef de cuisine under Jackie Shen at Chicago Cut Steakhouse (300 N. LaSalle St.; 312-329-1800) and started February 13. When Shen left the restaurant last week, Kook got promoted to executive chef. Kook, who appeared on the TV show Hell’s Kitchen, says that culinarily, he’s the protégé of Todd Stein, having worked for him at The Florentine, Cibo Matto, Las Vegas’s David Burke at the Venetian, and Minneapolis’s Bank. “He has been nothing short of a second father to me,” Kook says. Kook’s promotion answers one lingering question about Shen’s departure from the steak house. Another: Will Shen’s signature chocolate bag stay on the menu now that she’s out of the kitchen? The answer is no. “It’s traveled with her for 30 years,” says David Flom, one of Chicago Cut’s owners. “And that’s the way it should be.”


A Simple Plan

Jason Paskewitz, the chef at Gemini Bistro (2075 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-525-2522), got married a few weeks ago, and the happy pair spent their honeymoon in Paris. The food there inspired Paskewitz to revamp the bistro’s menu, aiming for the refreshing simplicity of the French meals. “So simple and so good. Just back to basics,” he says. “I thought Gemini was too all over the road with items. [Now I’m] just creating these great simple dishes from products that people use every day. I think that’s what a bistro is all about.” For example:

• Traditional French onion soup
• Crispy braised pork belly with sunny-side-up quail egg and potato crisps
• Mussels with Belgian ale, shaved celery, and fresh thyme
• Pan-fried quail with sweet corn purée, grilled chorizo, and a buttermilk biscuit
• Pan-roasted salmon with flageolet beans and sweet mint pesto and a petite frisée salad on top
• Grilled lamb porterhouse chops with toasted orzo salad in a lemon-oregano gremolata

That kind of inspiration is what we’re always trying to tell our bosses about—a junket to Paris would definitely inspire us to much more creative punch lines in Dish.


Lettuce Help You

When Pamela Fitzpatrick, who had run the bakery at Fox & Obel since it opened in August 2001, lost her job in January, she jumped right into the position of corporate pastry chef at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. However, Fitzpatrick says she and her boyfriend are planning to open a bakery and café, maybe on the East Coast, maybe in Portland, Maine. “Just something small and lean and mean to put out the best stuff in the world,” she says. It would specialize in doughnuts (which she’s been working on for Do-Rite Donuts) and pizza (RPM Italian). Head of Lettuce Richard Melman took her on with the understanding that they were all working together. “He said it would be a lot easier for Lettuce to help us with our plan if I were there working in their test kitchen. Pretty incredible,” Fitzpatrick says.


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Things to Do

1. Sample the master work of the pizzaiolo Franco Pepe (New Haven, Connecticut’s Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana), who will take to the Spacca Napoli (1769 W. Sunnyside Ave.; 773-878-2420) kitchen, intermittently, for three days (March 9 to 11). The Italian chef will be en route to Las Vegas, where he’ll present at the International Pizza Expo. Spacca Napoli’s owner, Jonathan Goldsmith, predicts that afternoons will be the best time to catch the likely-to-be-jetlagged chef in action, although his pies will be on the menu all weekend.   

2. Get a wee bit o’ culture this Saturday at Ballydoyle Irish Pub (5157 Main St., Downers Grove; 630-969-0600), as Smock Alley Theater Co. takes the stage for a 2 p.m. concert-style reading of the John Ford 1952 dramedy The Quiet Man. A $35 ticket also buys access to the pub’s Irish buffet.

3. Start your workday with a 16-ounce Intelligentsia coffee from Epic Burger, thrown in free with the purchase of an egg sandwich ($3.99; toppings include nitrate-free bacon and all-natural Wisconsin cheeses) at two of its locations (40 E. Pearson St.; 312-257-3262 and 550 W. Adams St.; 312-382-0400) through the end of March.

4. Listen to the podcast "The Days of Wine and Mouses" and ponder the idea of bringing a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck the next time your oenophile friend throws a dinner party.


Dot Dot Dot . . .

In the wake of Bradford Phillips’s announcement of plans to leave his post at the Pump Room to partner with the LM Restaurant owners for two new projects, Jean-Georges Vongerichten has promoted the Pump Room’s former sous-chef, Moosah Reaume, to executive chef. . . . Cheers to D.O.C. Wine Bar, which was hailed by Travel + Leisure as one of America’s best wine bars. . . . Congratulations are also in order for Jay Sebastian and Carrie Clark, the husband-and-wife-duo behind the Bridgeport Pasty food truck, for their third-place finish in the “Open Savoury Professional” category at the World Pasty Championships in England. . . . Ravioli Oli, a fast-casual Italian joint serving hand-crafted ravioli stuffed with fillings such as a roasted butternut squash–pancetta–brown sugar–sage combo, has opened at 2050 York Road in Oak Brook. . . . In late April, the New Orleans–based chain Naked Pizza plans to open a Chicago front in its battle for healthy eating at 953 West Diversey Parkway. A sample weapon: the pizza crust is made from ten grains, prebiotic agave fiber, and probiotics. . . . Eater reports that the food truck 5411 Empanadas plans to open a shop at 2850 North Clark Street.