Marcello Cancelli has managed dining rooms and wine lists at places such as Carlos’, North Pond Cafe, and Michael. Now, after years of running OPRs (Other People’s Restaurants), he’s ready to take a chance on his own. Sopa (752 Sheridan Rd., Highwood; 847-433-3434), Cancelli’s place for Mediterranean-influenced comfort food, will swing into action on December 4th. As for the name, “Sopa is Spanish or Portuguese for ‘soup,’” says Cancelli. So will there be soup on the menu? “Yes. One soup will actually be inspired by the customers. When someone tells us their favorite foods, we want to help people reminisce. We will try to get people participating in our e-mail list.” We think this means that if you e-mail Sopa about your favorite soup, some version of it could show up on the menu.
1 Question for Yamandu Perez, owner of Zak’s Place (112 S. Washington St., Hinsdale; 630-323-9257), a six-week-old west suburban hot spot
D: We understand you are from Uruguay. How did you end up in Chicago?
YP: Six years ago I was in Boston to take the master sommelier course. I sat in the front row of the class. The first glass was poured blind in front of us and they asked what the wine was. Name the vintage, region, and the grape varietal. I spoke up and I said, This is sauvignon blanc from Sancerre. The gentleman to my left, he said to his friend to his left: “If he gets this right, I’m hiring him.” Needless to say, I got it right and he hired me. Gabe Viti. A few weeks later, I was on my way to Chicago.
“He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.” –Henry David Thoreau (1817-62), American writer
A Very Long Engagement
When Anthony “Tony” Coates, an institutional bonds salesman, took a class to earn a food service sanitation certificate, a fellow student suggested he eat at Island Delight in Hyde Park. Tony did, and he went so crazy for the food, he insisted on meeting the chef, Herbert “Erroll” Gallimore. Tony had Erroll cater party after party for him and finally came right out and proposed, “If I introduce your [Jamaican] cuisine in a place up north in Chicago, will you be my chef?” “You bring the people, mon, and I’ll prepare the food,” said Erroll. It took Tony eight years to find the right spot, but on Halloween night Ja’ Grill (1008 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-929-5375) opened and suddenly jerk chicken became king in Lincoln Park.
Another Overnight Success Story
Ever heard of Cafe Trinidad (557 E. 75th St.; 773-846-8081)? Neither had we until the adventurous crew at Check, Please! uncovered this South Side BYOB. “People were lined up around the corner the next day,” says the owner, Darryl Hicks. “We had to tell people that we only have so many employees.” Hicks and his mom, Claudia, opened the 36-seater three years ago where they have been quietly rolling out rotis (think tortillas with powdered yellow split peas added to the flour), roasting them on a griddle, and filling them with curried shrimp, stew beef, and jerk chicken. If that sounds good to you, you might want to try one before mid-January. That’s when Trinidad will close for four weeks to double its size and secure a liquor license.
A Pretty Nice Deal
Cy’s Crab House in Buffalo Grove (301 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 847-279-1700) has closed—sort of. When it reopens in a few weeks, it will have a whole new identity, a family-friendly rib-and-chicken joint called Adam’s Rib & Ale House. In the meantime, if you stop by one of Cy’s Crab city locations for dinner, just mention that you heard about the Buffalo Grove reconstruction offer and your table will be treated to free appetizers and a bottle of house wine (Cy’s Crab House, 3819 N. Ashland Ave., 773-883-8900; King Crab, 1816 N. Halsted St., 312-280-8990). (Clarification since published in the Dish newsletter: This offer is good only with purchase of one entrée per person.)
Things to Do:
1. Celebrate Chanukah with Italian-style latkes ($5) and Mazel Tov martinis ($5) at Citizen (364 W. Erie St.; 312-640-1156) from December 5th through 12th. (Between the goat cheese tomato sauce on the potato pancakes and the Snow Queen Vodka and Blue Curaçao in the cocktails, beware an eight-day buzz.)
2. Watch skilled carvers whittle a fresh 400-pound bluefin tuna down to sashimi at Mitsuwa Marketplace (100 E. Algonquin Rd., Arlington Heights; 847-356-6699), December 1st from noon to 1 pm.
3. Marvel at the musical stylings of a man and his giant carrot.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
After an impressive ten-year run, Meritage (2118 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-6434) will close for good on January 1st. . . . On December 5th, Room 21 (2110 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-328-1198) celebrates the 74th anniversary of America coming to her senses with a $19.33 “Repeal Day Menu.” . . . The Rusty Armadillo Grill & Cantina (6154 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-792-8360) recently opened, and owner Mike Jettner (Jet’s Public Ale House) is confident that his new Mexican spot will kick up the trend factor on the Northwest Side. With tortilla pizzas and Southwestern egg rolls on the menu, how could it miss? . . . More openings: Frank and Angie Bobak, of the Bobak sausage-making family, kick off Frank & Angie Simply Fresh Foods (11333 W. 159th St., Orland Park; 708-590-8000) on December 1st with a guest appearance by Chicago Bears hero William “The Fridge” Perry from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. . . . A second Uncommon Ground (1401 W. Devon Ave.; 773-465-9801) debuts on December 3rd. This one will be green and sport an American comfort food menu.