Antico, Bucktown Delicious

Antico

We arrived at the very end of March and I realized that I had not posted since the very beginning of the month. This was a rather aggressive month, starting with me jumping out of information technology and plunging into photography seriously, albeit working on a website for a display of my portfolio still has me hooked into IT on a periphery. I added some real estate to my cache, became more engaged in community activism, and started an investment club along with some outstanding friends. My reviews thinned out, but my appetite didn’t.

Focaccia

Focaccia

For months, I had walked by a restaurant in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood that caught my eye after taking a peek at the menu. Antico at 1946 N. Leavitt Street is an Italian restaurant with the exposed brick interior that is rather popular throughout the Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Logan Square landscape. A nice setting without claustrophobia, an appetizing menu, and an impressive wine list, I was glad to have finally indulged this winner. And noting the influx of patrons starting immediately at 7:00 PM, it was clear that this was a delight for many.

Mushrooms and Polenta

Mushrooms and Polenta

After skimming the menu, I launched into my “challenge” method of ordering since the restaurant was not busy when I sat. I ordered an appetizer, a pasta, and an entrée, or rather I let the server handle the ordering. And I also trusted the server with the wine pairing. Starting with the mushrooms over polenta, this was certainly a choice I would entertain on future visits. Void of syrup, the mushrooms were not from a can, definitely given from the freshness in each bite. Drizzled with olive oil, the polenta was loose yet not to a runny consistency. With a glass of Nebbiolo that had a hint of berry on the finish, the first course received a compliment to the chef and to the server for the wine pairing.

Lasagna

Lasagna

Given my intent was to indulge myself in a hearty fashion, there was a spacing in time before the pasta course arrived. This was a manageable-sized bowl of lasagna. Prepared with a Bolognese sauce, bechamel sauce, and parmesan cheese instead of mozzarella to give a rich and creamy texture on the palate, this has quickly become my favorite lasagna I’ve had at any Italian restaurant. First, it wasn’t stacked such that it was heavy. Second, there is a very faint touch of nutmeg in the Bolognese sauce that shows up without making an announcement. It felt — or tasted — like a clue. Paired with a glass of Rossi di Montalcino, pure sangiovese that is like a Chianti on the palate, this was another amazing pairing as it still allowed the lasagna to steal the show.

Pork Milanese

Pork Milanese

The pork Milanese topped with fresh, crispy arugula along with cherry tomatoes, parmigiano vegano cheese, and fresh lemon, came on a regular sized plate with the pork chop almost hanging off the sides. Simply amazing. The pork milanese was a thin slice but fleshy because the breading was light. The salad, drizzled with a citrus vinaigrette, was a perfect accompaniment considering a rice, potatoes, or pasta would have been a bit much with the dish. This was paired with a Langhe Rosso, which was a combination of Nebbiolo dolcetto and barbera. It was mildly drier than a lot of the red wines that I drink, but the wink of cherries and nuts tricked me into not recognizing that. Again, for this to have been a course that I entrusted my server to order, this was a success.

Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo

For dessert, I shied away from anything that I thought would be “usual” on the menu. Having been good about not having a dessert with every meal, I opted for whatever gelato was on the menu. What arrived at the table was a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream with nutmeg topped with raspberries and powdered sugar. A dream this was and I believe the chef has a love for nutmeg, evident in how it was “hinted” in the lasagna and how it was included in the ice cream.

I have been rather unfair with my love of Italian restaurants in Chicago. While I like many of them, there is only one that I loved — Osteria Langhe. Antico now becomes the second Italian restaurant in Metropolitan Chicago that I love. Exceptional food is always a key to having someone return based on a hankering. But service is everything. What I discovered at Osteria Langhe was a staff that clearly enjoyed offering recommendations and listening to the customers. That was the same feeling I experienced at Antico. Good customer service is a dying art and when it rears itself in a restaurant setting, married with superb dishes, you achieve perfection and a spot on any one of my “I love this place for whatever reason” lists.

Antico Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Izakaya Mita, Sashimi and Robata

During my last restaurant outing, I was in Bucktown enjoying some French food. Next to the French restaurant is a Japanese restaurant named Izakaya Mita at 1960 N. Damen Avenue. Looking in from the outside, there was an intimate feeling about the restaurant that I thought would make it ideal for checking out, that being there would be no extreme crowds. Well, leave it up to me to go on a Friday night and experience a crowd. Anyone who has gone will agree that there is a good reason for the congestion.

Sake

Sake

Seaweed

Seaweed

On the evening that I went, I had come off of a ridiculously nerve-grating day at work. The best way I figured I could null the desire to scream at the top of my lungs was to imbibe a flight of sake. My server was grandtastic — new word of the day — coming up with recommendations and explaining where they were produced, the ingredients in the liquid recipe, what made them spectacular, and pairing them with the dishes I ordered. For example, I had a refreshing sake that went very well with a small bowl of spicy seaweed.

Tuna Sashimi

Tuna Sashimi

There was an inquiry of whether I would like to sample some raw seafood. This gave me the indication that sashimi was perhaps on the offering. It was. I had some meaty tuna sashimi with another glass of sake. For those who may want to indulge this full coloured, mouth-watering lovely should note that it is a small plate with four succulent slices of resh tuna. It is still a splendid order as a small plate.

Salmon Sashimi

Salmon Sashimi

The same can be said of the salmon, which I had with my third sake option. Salmon is one dish that I never tire of eating. When it is cooked such that it is tender and flaky, complaining is never an option. Having it sashimi style has now gotten me addicted to enjoying it before being seared by a flame. There was nothing stringy, fishy, tough, or chewy about the salmon. If it had come on a larger plate as a larger portion, I would have been even happier than I was with it as a small plate option.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

By the time I was finishing the salmon sashimi, my sister had arrived. That meant more food. It did not mean more sake. While she ordered some dishes and cocktails, the latter to take her mind off having had a mad week at work, I ordered some mushrooms for sharing. Grilled to tenderness and accented with a light sauce, we devoured these fresh mushrooms and noticed that they had the flavour of the garden variety that had not been rushed in growing. There was a reminiscent moment of when we had tasted mushrooms at a favourite sushi and robata grill restaurant named Yuzu in Chicago’s West Town neighbourhood.

Beef Tenderloin, Salad

Beef Tenderloin, Salad

Another shared dish was beef tenderloin over small salad. Neither one of us is a fan of rare or medium rare meat. Imagine both of our surprises when we had gobbled these rare morsels to completion. There were no overpowering herbs and spices in the recipe, so there was enough taste in whatever marinade the chef used to prepare the meat. Nothing was overcompensated and that may have been why it was easier for us to navigate the raw meat without thinking much about it, until we had gone around the plate sopping up the last bit of juice with the lettuce.

Green Tea Mochi Balls

We sat and caught up with other about the week for several minutes before ordering light sweets and green tea. My sister had green tea cheesecake while I had three green tea mochi balls. Not only are mochi balls a swell palate cleanser, but they are also light on the stomach after a hearty meal. The green tea was definitely good for digestion after all we had eaten. This was loose leaf green tea, too, so I was thoroughly content.

Green Tea

Green Tea

Izakaya Mita is not a large sushi bar, but it is most definitely a fan favourite for a lot of individuals. It may be that the Wednesday I went to the French restaurant was indicative of a lighter night. Fridays may be the beginning day of the weekend when everyone wants to enjoy fun, excitement, fellowship, and good food way from home. With this being my first visit, the one server who gave us recommendations was the only indication I have for superb service. I don’t have to be redundant and say ad nauseam that the food is worthy. What I will say is that one may find plenty pretentious Japanese sushi, yakitori, and robata restaurants in the metropolitan Chicago area. Izakaya Mita doesn’t pretend. They’re just damn good.

Izakaya Mita Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato