The lauded contemporary Italian spot Cibo Matto (The Wit Hotel, 201 N. State St.; 312-239-9500) adds steak to the menu today. The chef, Evan Percoco, told us what will be different and what will be the same at the restaurant.
Dish: Why the conceptual change for Cibo Matto?
Evan Percoco: I’m not going to say that it’s a conceptual change. I’m going to say that we’ve enhanced. Chicago is the land of steak houses, and we wanted to give our customers some options in that realm as well. What makes ours different is that we have selected a beef program that’s all natural, no hormones. No antibiotics, humanely raised.
D: Aren’t other steak houses doing that?
EP: A lot of classic Chicago steak houses are going USDA certified prime, but I’ve always hung my hat on all-natural products. [Our] beef program is produced by small family farmers. It’s not a massive commodity-style beef.
D: Will the name of the restaurant change?
EP: We’re not changing the name. It’s Cibo Matto.
D: How much of the menu will be steaks?
EP: There are eight items on our meat and chop section.
D: Are they grilled simply, or will there be fancier preparations?
EP: Grilled. We have a 20-ounce bone-in rib eye, a 16-ounce New York strip, filet mignon in two different sizes [6 and 10 ounces], a veal rib chop. We have lamb T-bones, raised in Colorado. We are also going to do an 18-ounce double pork chop from Compart Farms in Minnesota.
D: Will the steaks arrive with nothing else on the plate, as steak houses usually do it?
EP: No. A little sangiovese syrup on the plate and a little salad. It’s similar to steak-house preparation, but with our own interpretation.
D: Are the steaks aged?
EP: We are going to do some aging on the premises. It will take us a little while to get started here. [Tonight,] they will be wet-aged. We won’t have the dry-aging process for another month. When we start aging in-house, we can give bigger cuts, more unique sizes of rib eye. Say you came with a party of six. We can hand-cut a steak for that table.
D: What else is new on the Cibo Matto menu?
EP: Because it’s springtime, we are doing a nice halibut with spring onion, capers, and polenta. We’re going to do pan-roasted striped bass with mascarpone, English peas, risotto, and morels. We are going to do a butter-poached Maine lobster with semolina budino, asparagus, and fried onions. We also have a delicious pheasant dish two ways—a brined and roasted breast and sausage made out of the leg and thigh. With cipollini [onions], farro, cinnamon, basil, and sangiovese syrup. [And] these colossal grilled shrimp with gremolata and basil.
D: We heard you’ve got a new pastry chef, too. Any new desserts?
EP: We have totally changed our desserts. We have had Toni Roberts from C-House since early March. She is doing a maple pine-nut pie with blueberry-buttermilk gelato and lemon and rosemary. She’s doing a chocolate budino—God, it’s so good—with pistachio chip biscotti and sambuca whipped cream. But I have two favorites on this menu, actually: the warm raspberry semolina torte with hazelnut gelato and raspberry thyme, and then this delicious ricotta-stuffed zeppole.