PRICE POINT: $16 for the muffuletta
We have New Orleans to thank for (among many other cultural wonders) the muffuletta. This hearty sandwich features Italian meats, cheeses, and an olive-heavy giardiniera, all stuffed on a circular loaf, around 10-inches in diameter. When completed, the creation reaches nearly half-a-foot high, and could happily feed a small family.
So it’s a bit of a surprise to encounter this sandwich at Acanto (18 S. Michigan Ave., 312-578-0763, acantochicago.com), a cozy and stylish new Italian restaurant in the former Henri space. With a tony location directly across the street from Millennium Park, this should be the kind of place to sample black truffles and expensive Barolo wines, not notoriously messy sandwiches—but in fact, the spot has a homey, fun vibe that seems at odds with its Michigan Avenue address.
As for the sandwich, Acanto solves the mess dilemma by eschewing the shock and awe of the original, offering a refined, suave sandwich. That certainly explains the much more manageable size, which you can easily pick up without breaking your back. Though it still looks tall, the light and airy sesame focaccia allows you to appreciate the creamy mortadella, salty prosciutto, and funky salami. Instead of chunky giardiniera and sharp provolone, Acanto uses a giardiniera aioli and an olive fontina. I wouldn’t call any of this an improvement on the original, but it’s still a hell of a sandwich, one that would easily tide you over after a stroll around the park across the street.