Inside Filini

Filini opened in the new Radisson Blu hotel in the Aqua building this week, and on its second night of service, The Creative Director and I ventured over to check it out.

The Italian-inspired restaurant is one floor above the bar, which makes the bar—a few steps below the lobby and lounge level—feel like the main attraction. At first glance, the space looks appealing: There are candles everywhere, and their reflections bounce off the black-and-white patterned tiles on the floor. The furniture—much of it covered in shimmery silver leather—alternates between mod and vintage shapes, and the long, communal tables look like a fun place to meet someone new.

But before we proceed, let’s pause to consider my No. 2 pet peeve (after too many TVs): fake candles. A few of Filini’s candles are real, but the ones scattered around the lounge? They’re those plastic votives with the unnatural flamettes. Just flicker already! Memo to atmosphere creators everywhere: When a candle lacks fire, it fails to set the mood.

On a cheerier note, we enjoyed our broccolini and pancetta pizza (small for $13, but hot and tasty) and the cocktails. All of Filini’s specialty drinks are $12. (No surprises there, since that seems to be the agreed-upon price of the craft cocktail movement.) In honor of Halloween week, I tried the Witch (vodka, strega, limoncello, honey, green tea and lemon juice), which was strong and smooth and served over my favorite kind of ice (pellets, almost crushed). TCD had a Manhattan which he pronounced “too vermouth-y,” but he admitted he could see us stopping at Filini for a Peroni on tap ($6.50) after a hot summer’s day in Millennium Park.

In addition to hotel guests, the Radisson crew hopes they’ll lure in a neighborhood crowd from the surrounding office buildings and Lakeshore East condos—and they seemed to be succeeding last night, when the happy hour crowd was a mix of professional types and a smattering of wide-eyed tourists. When Filini throws open its big windows to the sidewalk next spring, I predict even more passersby will be tempted. After all, Filini is a saner place to cocktail than the madness at Sweetwater around the corner, and there’s an aura of off-the-beaten-path privacy that the nearby spots on Michigan Avenue can’t offer. Just try not to think about the fake candles.