I've mentioned in previous posts that instead of giving my folks Mother's Day, Father's Day and Birthday gifts, last year Adam and I started a tradition of treating them to a nice dinner out in Chicago. Last year, we went to Mercat a la Plaxna which was GREAT and I highly recommend it. This year, we headed to the #1 al fresco dining spot in Chicago- Piccolo Sogno!!
Piccolo Sogno has a very cute indoor eating area that smells like fresh flowers (seriously, how do they do that?), but in the summer, the capacity of the place triples when they open their HUGE, BEAUTIFUL patio!
I found the hype about this city oasis to be totally founded. The patio had lots of trees and shade protecting us from the sun, and the tables were cute. You truly would never know you are in the middle of (a not especially pretty) part of Chi-town. I could see lights set up in the trees and imagine that after dark the place gets even more pretty. I'd recommend shooting for a 7:30 pm reservation so you can enjoy the sun and the dark (good luck getting one!).
I knew from past visits that the food and service at Piccolo is OUTSTANDING. Since my folks don't live in the city, they don't have many changes to eat out in the city, so I choose our restaurants very carefully to give them the best possible experiences. Our server gave us an excellent wine recommendation, and was very knowledgeable about the menu offerings. The food was well spaced, we never felt rushed and the waitstaff was very attentive but non-obtrusive. For example, when our food arrived, we were trying to sample all the entrees and a server immediately popped up and asked if we'd like some small plates to aid in sharing. My mom kept commenting on the large number of waitstaff and that's why- they are paying close attention, trying to premeditate restaurant patrons' needs. Well done!
On to the food! For starters, we had Prociutto di Parma w/ Figs and Flori di Zucca (zucchini blossoms stuffed w/ fontina over tomato puree). Both were excellent and I'd recommend them especially the zucchini.
For our mains:
Adam had the sea bass w/ fennel. They brought the whole fish to the table for him to approve. I never know what I'm looking for in this "fish approval process" but it's fun nonetheless! The fish was AMAZING.
My Dad had the spinach gnocchi. He's on a quest to find the best gnocchi, similar to my quest for the best red sauce (Dave's Italian Kitchen in Evanston holds the crown currently for me). I don't think it beat out his favorite, but probably came in 2nd, which isn't too shabby:)
Mom had the ravioli alla primavera (artichoke and buffalo milk ricotta stuffed pasta tossed w/ fava beans, peas and parsley). I thought this was just outstanding and would wholeheartedly recommend it. It tasted lighter than it sounds.
I had the rosticciana (braised beef short ribs, aromatic vegetables, soft polenta, spring greens, pea sprouts) for the second time. I remembered each bite being just heavenly last time and it was this time as well. So good. The meat was so tender and soft. LOVED IT.
For dessert we had the panna cota (which was good) and the hazelnut cake and sorbet (which was even better!).
Great food, great company, great day! I hope my parents had as much fun as we did:)