Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dinner at Pane Caldo

The Thursday before 4th of July weekend, Adam and I were looking for a good restaurant for Friday night dinner- a place that would jump start our action packed 3 day weekend. To find this shining star of a restaurant we turned to UrbanSpoon. For those of you without iphones, UrbanSpoon is an iphone app (application) that helps you to locate restaurants in your city. There are 3 columns: location (ie neighborhood in Chicago), type of food, and price. We set the food column to Italian, and left the other 2 alone. Lo and behold after repeatedly suggesting Giordano's and Al's Italian Beef, the iphone mentioned Pane Caldo. Pane Caldo? Neither of us had ever heard of it! I quickly googled it and it turns out this gem of an Italian restaurant is just a 20 minute walk from our apartment! In general, Adam and I at least know the names of most good restaurants in Chicago, so we were intrigued and headed out to Pane Caldo Friday night.

Overall, this restaurant was a real find. It is located just a couple blocks from the Michigan Ave and Chicago Ave intersection in the Gold Coast. They specialize in Northern Italian food made with all fresh ingredients. They make their own pasta and the menu changes daily based on which ingredients the chef thinks look good at the farmer's market. The ambience is really great- sophisticated, modern, warm. The service was wonderful- the server walked us through the menu with some editorializing about what is particularly good this time of year.

To drink, I tried a glass of Rhone Blanc. This was the first time I'd tried that varietal, but it certainly won't be the last. Picture the oakey depth of a good oaked Chardonney combined with the dry, slightly fruity refreshingness provided by a good Savignon Blanc and you have Rhone Blanc (or at least the one I had).
On to the eats. Pane Caldo means "warm bread" in Italian, and sure enough the warm bread, served with an olive tampenade, was delicious. We had seasoned mushrooms with asparagus as an appetizer, which was great. For dinner, Adam had squid ink risotto with Maine lobster and truffle oil. I had homemade tortellini stuffed with acorn squash with an asparagus sauce. Both of our meals were impressive. Really impressive. Haven't been this impressed since some of our dinners in New Zealand.

Dessert was excellent as well. Adam had the cheese plate with a glass of port and I had the panna cotta. I explained in my Harvest post my new love of panna cotta. This one was even better than the one at Harvest. It tasted like a soft creme brulee. The presentation was beautiful with kiwi and blackberry drizzled artistically around the plate and a 4 inch high hardened sugar treble clef adorning the plate as well!

I definitely recommend this place to anyone looking for an impressively fresh, beautifully presented Northern Italian meal in a modernly sophisticated, intimate setting. I give it an A+!

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