Italian food to make you smile at The
Florentine includes chef Todd Stein’s
chicken atop butternut-squash panzanella.
Huge Galdones/ galdonesphotography.com
151 W. Adams St.
We’re still licking our chops over chef Todd
Stein’s dream chicken, lolling in marvelous
au jus with balsamic vinegar and poised
atop scrumptious crispy butternut squash
panzanella. And who can forget those
pastas—possibly the most al dente in the
Western world. Still, once you get used to
the fact that Stein’s bucatini carbonara,
lush with egg and that unexpected flash of
mint, is simply the chewiest, you’re going to
be delighted with the flow of Italian fare at
The Florentine. And it was one smart move
teaming up Stein with Rodelio Aglibot, now
executive corporate chef of BLT, the group
that owns The Florentine.
shine with streamlets of basil oil and
Parmigiano-Reggiano. Diners choosing
butternut squash caramelle pasta inflected
with sage will be heartily crowned with
the sweetness of la dolce vita via candied
walnuts, brown butter and amaretti.
answer to the eternal question: “Where
shall we dine?”
Antipasti $8-$16; primi $14-$28; secundi
Shaved Brussels sprouts salad with itsy,
bitsy currants and marcona almonds
evokes the freshness of spring, or
“Primavera”—title of another of Botticelli’s
Florentine masterpieces housed in your
imaginary culinary Uffizi. Seeing diners
smile like that is what a chef lives for, no?
1450 W. Chicago Ave.
One diner in our party savored a delicious
lamb shank big enough to clobber warring
Florentine dukes, while our vegetarian was
forced to stave off the rest of the table
from stealing his creamy farro risotto like
a Renaissance prince intent on defending
Belgian food is alive, well and living in Chicago,
at least, to judge by Leopold, a new haunt
where comfort marries chic, where the Belgian
beer flows and where chef Jeffrey Hedin
could be masquerading as someone’s Belgian
grandmother, one step removed. If you ever
thrilled to the hearty tenderness of Jacques
Brel begging his lover not to leave him (ne me
quitte pas), Leopold could be your ticket.
The National Culinary Review | May 2011
OK, so The Florentine is in the downtown
JW Marriott Chicago rather than a step
away from Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, home of
Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.” Still, you could fall
in love with relaxed dining in which moments
of eccentricity and unexpected flavors hide
in—or flash out of—most every dish.
Dive into a bowl of velvety tomato bread
soup, and rejoice that all is good and easy
in a world where tomatoes and bread
Dolce, not by Gabbana but by talented
pastry chef George Harris, kept us
spooning and swooning to the end.
And the fluffy tiramisu might have
been whipped up by naughty, angelic
Renaissance putti. Sheer comfort
and gutsy simplicity with moments of
surprise make The Florentine an easy
Count on uncontrived, peasant-styled food
totally void of pretense in a modern space,
where everything is designed to be shared,
including steaming pots of moules with frites.
As the Belgians say, “He who does not wish
for little things does not deserve big things.”
So, count on lots of little things, including salty
homemade pierogi, testament to the hearty
Poles who immigrated to Belgium over the
years. Grandma could have served these,
simple and good, cooked in brown butter and