CHSO July 2009 : Page 76

R e s t au r a n t Special EST NEW CHE Best Way To Visit Tuscany When Coco Pazzo opened some 17 years ago, it was the only Chicago restaurant focusing on Italy’s Tuscan region, and while that’s no longer the case, we still think they do it the best. And, thankfully, our favorite dish of wood-roasted oystermushrooms, crispy house-cured pancetta and radicchio isn’t going anywhere either. 300 W. Hubbard St., 312.836.0900. Like a Good Neighbor Leave it to Jerry Kleiner to tap into Hyde Park’s need for festive dining options. And Park 52, with its vibrant colors, red leather banquettes and oversized light fi xtures, does it well. But it’s more than just a pretty face: Chef Renee Everett sticks to American bistro cuisine (braised beef short ribs, steamed mussels, jumbo shrimp and grits with truffl e oil) that keeps ’em coming. 5201 S. Harper Ave., 773.241.5200. Curtis Duffy AVENUES We can only imagine the pressure of having to step into the shoes—or, in this case, clogs—of an award-winning chef whose restaurant was the darling of the foodie world for four years running. But that hasn’t been a problem for Curtis Duff y, who last year took over Avenues from Graham Elliot Bowles, and in the process has racked up plenty of his own multi-starred reviews (including the fi ve awarded by CS). Rather than stick with the status quo, Duff y has forged his own cuisine style— ingredient-driven, sure, but with a twist—combining his extensive fi ne dining skills (Alinea, Charlie Trotter’s), pastry background, a bit of molecular gastronomy and love for unique components (snail caviar, anyone?) to create food that is truly his own. Wagyu beef cheeks cannelloni with white sesame seed pudding, preserved kumquats and lime milk is a mouthful in more ways than one. Hey, if the shoe fi ts, well, you know. T e Peninsula Chicago, 108 E. Superior St., 312.573.6754. Phillip Foss is known for his intriguing/elegant French cuisine, like this grilled baby octopus with chorizo vinaigrette and croquette of tartar sauce. Chicago’s Best-Kept Dining Secrets Dinner at The Drawing Room: T is Gold Coast resto is attached to nightclub Le Passage, but the two venues couldn’t be further apart. Leave the clubbing to the guys who never grew up, and bring your date to try Nick Lacasse’s avant-garde menu, including the bacon squared: pork belly wrapped with bacon. 937 N. Rush St., 312.266.2694. UNNER-UP: BEST NEWCHE Phillip Foss LOCKWOOD While some treat their fi rst exec chef job with a little secrecy, not wanting to expose too much lest it all go up in fl ames, Phillip Foss of the Palmer House’s Lockwood bravely jumped into the kitchen—and the online world—immediately upon his arrival. His blog ( includes recipes, inspirations, cookbook reviews and plenty of humor (his deconstructed buff alo wings are not available by the bucket, he writes). All this would be naught if his food wasn’t great—but with dishes like foie gras sliders on brioche and prosciutto-wrapped pork tenderloin, it’s not a problem. 17 E. Monroe St., 312.917.3404. 76 | | July 2009 Le Colonial’s swank lounge: Upstairs at this French-Vietnamese hotspot hides a low-lit, 60-person lounge with sofas, Oriental rugs and a perfect fi rst-date vibe. 937 N. Rush St., 312.255.0088. All-you-can-eat at A Mano: Discover the Italian gem’s primo lunch special: Your pizza or panini and scoop of gelato comes with unlimited trips to the antipasti bar for a grand total of just $11.95. 335 N. Dearborn St., 312.629.3500. The Drawing Room’s spring pasta. Amore affordableMoto: It’s not advertised, but behind those $175 tasting menus, there’s an item- by-item lounge menu, including seared quail wings accompanied by an edible picture of the dish. 945 W. Fulton Market, 312.491.0058. The man behind Sixteen: In a city that treats chefs like movie stars, the top toque of this sexy spot in Trump Tower keeps an astonishingly low profi le. A few FYIs about Frank Brunacci: He grew up in Melbourne, Australia, started his career working 15-hour days at Les Saveurs in London, has two young kids and makes a mean cheese beignet with spiced pecans. 401 N. Wabash Ave., 16th fl ., 312.588.8030. THE DRAWING ROOM PHOTO BY JAY SCHROEDER

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