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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Prosecco Restaurant

Traveling around Italy, Dave and I became accustomed to having a glass of Prosecco, the sparkling wine often likened to champagne, at the beginning of our meal. Not everyplace offered this simple pleasure; it coincided with times we had to wait for a table and given to us complimentary. Well we believed it was complimentary... in most instances when we asked for the bill is came as just a number, rather than itemized. Heck, we could have been picking up the tab for the table next to ours as far as we knew! However this is a tradition that I love to continue and is a refreshing start to an evening. So when a new restaurant opened in our neighborhood (River North, Chicago) with the namesake of this bubbly aperitif, we were quite excited to dine there.

The restaurant is brimming with such confidence that it offers no name on the outside, nor any address numbers. The only restaurant I know that truly has pulled off this type of stint is Alinea, also in Chicago. Alinea really stands alone in the amazing-food-meets-science category and is quite well known world wide. The photo to the right is Alinea's PB & J! If you do not know of it or have not had the opportunity, go to the site and check it out. I will post on our experience there another time; but let me tell you that it was worth the mortgage payment (not kidding!) it cost us to go there!

The ambiance of Prosecco was quite lovely; a very subdued elegance lofts throughout the restaurant. After being seated, we waited nearly 15 minuted before anyone even noticed us. Now, we adore have long dinners and lingering, never feeling rushed, but this is a way to long for anyone to not be noticed! If we could've just ordered a drink at least, the time frame would have been fine. But we hadn't even been offered water at this point! We were quite excited when our waiter showed up with a bottle of Prosecco and poured us each a (very tiny) glass; here again, I'm not sure if this was complimentary or if we were charged for it, but everyone did receive this little token. We then ordered two appetizer, mussels in a saffron sauce and beef carpaccio. The waiter returned to tell us the kitchen was out of mussels, but would like to offer us any other appetizer - on the house. Completely was not necessary, but I will tell you this type of service goes far in terms of customer loyalty! We had someone suggest a bottle of wine, I'm not sure if this individual was a host or a sommelier he just showed up at the table, but his suggestion was wonderful and perfect - a '98 Babaresco, just the right amount of tannins. Dave really enjoyed the carpaccio, I felt the beef was flavorless and needed the extreme amount of cheese placed on top just to give it some flavor (which would describe why Dave loved it, all the cheese). Our second appetizer was a seared scallop stuffed with braised short ribs on risotto. This was a large and filling appetizer! The short ribs were a bit dried out; overall, I liked the idea of this dish but it could have been executed better.

Onto the meal; we went with a spinach ricotta dumpling in a Maytag blue sauce; this was quite good and we ate the entire plate. Our second dish was a seared duck with a port reduction and orzo pasta. I found it quite interesting that the waiter assumed us to be complete morans to the point he felt he needed to explain to us what orzo was. This dish fell completely flat. The duck was so fatty that we were spitting out mouthfuls of it, and the sauce didn't even leave a hint of port on the palette.

Overall, I feel there so many Italian places (especially in Chicago) that are much more solid that this one. Perhaps they have a bit too much confidence and should at least place address numbers on the door. It's not that we would never go back, but we won't be there anytime soon! I admit that Dave and I expect a lot when we dine out; but I wonder if I'm even harder on Italian places as I often feel this is one of the easiest cuisines to create at home. No matter, we did have a lovely evening together and we walked home fat and happy!

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