Archive for the 'Italiano Americano' Category

Beepa da boopa! Boppa de beepa!

That’s my impression of the way Italians talk! Is that rude? Whatever, I have a friend who’s like half Italian so it’s totally cool. Also it’s my way of telling you guys that FDL hit up its first ever Italian restaurant last night! J. sent out an email yesterday to the rest of us, listing all the places we’ve eaten since April of 2009 when this whole project got started. After last night, we’ve been to 17 of Chicago’s finest eateries; running the gamut from chic gastropub to classic Chicago steakhouse. UNreal. I’m so proud!

Last night was the absolute perfect night for a hearty Italian meal, which is precisely what we got at Coco Pazzo. It was cold, it was windy, and Thanksgiving was two days away. We weren’t exactly in the mood for salads, if you catch my drift. Coco Pazzo was J.’s choice, and was decided upon after she had researched and polled and asked around for the best Italian joint in the city. I won’t say this place is the most “authentic”, and the menu is slightly more refined than that of a more rustically-based cuisine. We were seated in a cozy corner of the warmly lit dining room, half-hidden and ensconced by blue velvet curtains. I noticed that our group was pretty much the youngest in the place, save for a family with a kid who was about seven or eight. The rest of the diners were older and finely dressed in suits and business-casuals, chatting quietly over glasses of wine and plates heaped with thinly-sliced prosciutto, olives, and chunks of parmesan.

I think all of us were feeling a bit selfish and decided to forgo our usual sharing of appetizers and entrees, and to be perfectly honest I was slightly relieved that sharing was not required or even encouraged. In general, the sharing of food is something I relish; being able to take a bite of a particularly delicious dish and look around the table, eyes wide, knowing exactly how the rest of the table feels to be enjoying the same experience. Last night though…I just wanted the food all to myself. Bites were had off plates here and there, but our usual free-for-all was more of an every man for himself situation.

It seems to be an established yet unwritten rule of FDL that someone just has to get grilled octopus at some point in the meal. I unselfishly took that burden upon myself and ordered an appetizer of grilled baby octopus served atop a bed of greens, the plate studded with gigantic white beans and fresh olives, served with a thick slice of lemon. J. eyed my plate and made me promise to give her a bite, so unable is she to resist a plate of grilled cephalopod. (Yeah, that’s right. Cephalopod. Look it up.) I requested a smidgen of M.’s duck liver terrine, which was incredibly rich and resembled a cross-section of a giant hot dog in color and shape. Applause to her for finishing the whole slice, which was paired with sweet accompaniments to presumably balance the luxurious texture and taste of the liver. I should mention here that I DID TAKE PICTURES but I used some stupid iPhone app that–for some godforsaken reason–did not SAVE my pictures after taking them. Thanks a lot, Instagram! More like InstaCRAP, am I right?!

Anyhoodle. For awhile now, there has been some deep and insatiable craving inside me for a plate of squid ink pasta. I can’t tell you why, for I’d never actually eaten it, but I kept hearing about it here and there, seeing recipes in cookbooks and magazines…I’ve even gone so far as to poke at a bag of it in the fancy pasta aisle at Treasure Island, wondering what flavor was hidden in those dark and mysterious strands. Lucky me, then, that Coco Pazzo’s menu boasted a squid ink pasta dish served with PEI mussels (also yum), calamari, zucchini, tomatoes, and a chili-infused marinara sauce. I mean, could you just die? Doesn’t that sound heavenly?

I had always imagined that squid ink pasta would somehow be imbued with a fishy, sea-like taste; so inseparable in my mind are the ideas of squid and sea. After my first bite, though, I could tell that the majority of any such flavor came mostly from the mussels and the calamari rather than from the pasta, which by itself tasted salty and even a little bit sweet. I needed no extra salt or pepper, and the only extraneous condiment added to the meal was a light sprinkling of freshly-shaved parmesan. We rounded out our dinner with two bottles of red wine, no dessert. Dessert would just be far too much, we simply couldn’t. I’d say we made out like bandits, seeing as we managed to get out of there without spending over $60 a person. Blammo! Nailed it.

Our next round will be my choice, and I’m hoping to finagle a way in to Grant Achatz’s new spot, Next, which is speculated to open sometime in the next month or so.

Happy Thanksgiving y’all.