Dean’s (Wish) List

Dean Zanella, the chef of 312 Chicago for years, is partnering with Mia Francesca’s Scott Harris to open Aldino’s (626 S. Racine Ave.), a 120-seat Italian restaurant/deli in the old Rico’s and La Scala spot near the UIC pavilion. “A better word than ‘deli’ is a ‘larder,’” says Zanella, whose grandfather was named Aldino. “The food will be cold. You want to come in and pick up a couple dozen ravioli and the sauce to go with it? Italian meat loaf, braised lamb shank, about a half dozen pastas, 12 to 15 antipasti. And I’ll make porchetta in there, to go.” When the “quaint” wood-and-brick restaurant opens early next year, Zanella also promises a menu of hot stuff like meatball sandwiches, pork shoulder braised in lemon and milk, and Sicilian pizza baked in a four-by-six carousel oven—all of which you can enjoy at a table or at Aldino’s marble-countered bar. First of all: Yum. Second, is there any deal these days that doesn’t involve Scott Harris?

Diablos Is in the Details

Marc Bortz has gutted his former Cabaret nightclub in River North (15 W. Hubbard St.) and is in the process of turning the space into a 125-seat Tex-Mex cantina called Dos Diablos. “This is not high-end Mexican,” says Bortz (Sangria). “Chicago has Rick Bayless. He’s an incredible chef who does Mexican food better than anybody. That’s not what we are going to do. This is more of a concept-driven place, the kind of place you go to have fun with your friends.” By which he means: fajitas, frozen margaritas, and late-night tequilas—which may not float your boat, but at least it’s something different. “Everyone is doing burgers, beers, and fries,” says Bortz. “Everybody is zigging so we decided to zag.” ETA: Late February.


“I was making pancakes the other day and a fly flew into the kitchen. And that’s when I realized that a spatula is a lot like a fly swatter. And a crushed fly is a lot like a blueberry. And a roommate is a lot like a fly eater.” –Demetri Martin (b. 1973), American comedian

A Splash of Color

DeColores (1626 S. Halsted St.; 312-226-9886), a new Pilsen BYO that has made a name for itself by serving fresh flavored waters (tamarind, rice, and hibiscus) sounds awfully charming. “We took my mother’s recipe for marinated pork and used her sauce, added pineapple and bell pepper, and made pork skewers,” says Priscilla Reyes, the co-owner. Her mom, Ramona Martinez, owner of Taqueria El Sol del Pueblo in Bensenville, loved it. The name (“of colors”) and the art-filled décor pay homage to the galleries that dot the neighborhood, and the tres leches cake comes from Kristoffer’s Cafe down the street. “We make the chips and the salsa here,” says Reyes. “And we make our mole with 20 different ingredients.”

Texas Messes with Everyone

The seven partners at Q BBQ (70 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange; 708-482-8700), a modern 66-seat quick-service restaurant dedicated to Texas-style barbecue, argued about barbecue for years before opening in September. “I would say that I’m the most obnoxious of the partners being that I’m a Texan,” says Trey Morris. “I’ve been in Chicago eight years and have been searching for quality Texas barbecue.” The result of their debates? Brisket, ribs, and pulled pork smoked for 15 hours on an Old Hickory smoker; a democratic array of sauces—Carolina vinegar, Memphis sweet, Texas spicy, and South Carolina mustard—hand-cut fries, Hamm’s Beer in a can. “One of the places we really like is Smoque,” says Morris. “They do a great job in the city, and we needed something in the suburbs. Their barbecue is very good. Ours is as good if not better.” Even in Illinois, them’s fightin’ words, Trey.

Shooting Star

A trusted FOD hit Big Star (1531 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-4039) last week—and judging by the lines, so did the rest of you. Basically: She liked it, but it didn’t change her life. “The honky-tonk theme doesn’t extend past the country/western music and the menu’s font, which keeps the place from becoming a caricature but wasn’t the all-out experience I had hoped for. Gray walls with nothing on them, blond wood—very nondescript. I can find equally good tacos al pastor at any number of Logan Square taquerias, although the ‘panza’ (pork belly) was memorable. I was more impressed with the pages of whiskeys and awesome, Violet Hour–caliber craft cocktails for a very reasonable $7 (drinks are $12 across the street). I had the Perry County Smash, which involved rye, lemon, blackberries, and bitters. Heavenly.”  

Things to Do

  1. No plans for Thanksgiving? Make reservations at Big Jones (5347 N. Clark St.; 773-275-5725), which is serving a four-course turducken menu ($44 for adults; $20 for kids under 12) between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the big day.
  2. Celebrate the three-year anniversary of Marigold (4832 N. Broadway; 773-293-4653) November 18th through November 21st with a traditional Hindi wazwan (feast): three courses, $25.
  3. If you have a disability or are “in need,” contact Mesón Sabika (1025 Aurora Ave., Naperville; 630-983-3000) or Tapas Valencia (1530 S. State St.; 312-842-4444) by November 19th. Both plan to open their doors to you for a free three-course Thanksgiving meal.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Finally, Nella Pizzeria Napoletana (2423 N. Clark St.; 773-327-3400), the promising pizza haven from Nella Grassano, opens on November 20th. . . . Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton St.,  312-575-0306), a maze of more than 25 specialty vendors in the Ogilvie Transportation Center, is slated to open in early December. . . . Hyde Park Progress reports that Z & H MarketCafe (1126 E. 47th St.; 773-538-7372), the uspcale deli that took Kenwood by storm last October, will open a second branch in the soon-to-be-vacant University Market space (1323 E. 57th St.) in Hyde Park. . . . Dish is off next week for Thanksgiving. Enjoy yours and we’ll be back on December 2nd with all kinds of restaurant news.