I have never been a fan of sequels. Whether in movies or books, sequels rarely live up to expectations in my experience. I tend to shy away from anything that has “2″ in the title. Somehow the “twos” never quite measure up. For me, it usually holds true for restaurants as well. But there are, of course, exceptions to every rule. These exceptions make me really happy. To better illustrate my point, meet Chicago’s new kid on the block, Piccolo Sogno Due.
Chef Tony Priolo’s original concept, Piccolo Sogno, has been one of my favorite spots for Italian food ever since its opening. Chicago’s most gorgeous patio aside, the food here has always been delicious and unfussy. I spent many an afternoon on the Piccolo Sogno patio with a book, a glass of wine and a plate of prosciutto or a bowl of pasta. What can I say? I love the original. So, when the plans for Piccolo Sogno Due were announced, I secretly hoped that it would become an exception to my sequel rule. My hope grew stronger with Chef Todd Stein coming aboard. Two of Chicago’s top Italian cuisine chefs? This place had promise of being spectacular!
I recruited one of my rather discerning friends to join me for dinner on opening night. I broke my own rule, since I prefer to give any restaurant a chance to get its bearings and work out the kinks before dining there. Remember what I said about exceptions? Our opening night experience was damn near flawless. And I don’t throw that word around lightly. The service was impeccable, the space was gorgeous, the all Italian wine list was exciting and the food… oh, the food!
The menu beckoned with choices but, on this hot July evening, we opted for mostly lighter dishes, almost all of them seafood. I can honestly say here that we had nothing that we did not absolutely love. Floured “white bait” with lemon? Picture delicately breaded whole little fish with fried parsley leaves and a simple squeeze of lemon. Wood-grilled head-on prawns came topped with tomatoes and sliced garlic. A simple salad of Tuscan kale, fennel and radishes with creamy lemon dressing stole the show, simplicity at its finest. House-made pasta nestled in delicate clam broth, surrounded with plump clams and topped with artichokes: perfection. The monkfish we ordered on our server’s recommendation was cooked beautifully and presented simply.
We got dessert, since I brought my own dessert expert with me (everyone knows I don’t have a sweet tooth). Cool semifredo with a slight bitter note from amaretti cookies and dark chocolate sauce was stellar. But a simple white peach sorbetto stole my heart. I would like to have a scoop of it in a glass of prosecco for a twist on a Bellini.
The wine flowed as we worked our way through a plethora of by the glass options. I should note that there are a lot of budget-friendly options on this impressive wine list. The heat outside and our seafood heavy menu dictated our choices: we stuck with chilled crisp Italian whites and rose. We sipped on Vermentino and Pecorino and Falanghina, rounding off the meal with salmon hued Nerello Mascalese rose. When we finally came up for air, hours have gone by. That’s a sign of a successful meal in my book.
As we walked down the street, we discussed our favorite dishes. Which is to say, we discussed all of them and why we enjoyed them. We talked about menu items we still wanted to try. I gushed over the wines I was antsy to get into my glass. You could be certain that I will be seeing this hot Italian sequel again. And again. And again. This will require serious commitment. Oh, the things I do in the name of research…
Piccolo Sogno Due ~ NOW OPEN!
340 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654