Friday, September 23

Piccolo on the Patio


For my birthday dinner with my family I knew I wanted to go somewhere extra special, some place where I wouldn't normally go (and couldn't afford!). I made a reservation two months ahead of my birthday at Piccolo Sogno in the River West. Most of the appeal of this restaurant was the gigantic patio behind the restaurant that made you feel like you were in Italy, not the Windy City.

The restaurant itself is quite small, so they certainly make up for the lack of seating with the large patio. Unfortunately on our trip it was a stormy Sunday. We were seated near the entrance of the restaurant, which I was not too happy about but what could I do? It was literally the last table inside since all of the outdoor patio parties were moved indoors due to rain. However, the restaurant was gorgeous inside as well, complete with sweeping chandeliers and warm-colored walls.

Front bar

Entrance to the dining room

Our vino for the evening- chef's suggestion
Beef carpaccio with dijon, mixed greens and parmesan
I handed my sister the extensive wine list as she is typically our family sommelier. After she couldn't decide, we took our waiter's recommendation for a bottle of sangiovese. The wine was a bit too dry for my taste but I still managed to enjoy it. We were all pretty hungry so each of us ordered a different appetizer, after all, this was a celebration! I opted for the beef carpaccio that was drizzled with dijon and topped with flavorful parmesan and mixed greens.

Fava salad with fava beans, aged pecorino, “Piccolo Sogno” extra virgin olive oil, and arugula
My sister chose the fava bean salad, which featured chunks of pecorino romano and Piccolo Sogno's own extra virgin olive oil, which, by the way, was extraordinary. The house imported balsamic vinegar was amazing as well and I found myself dipping just about everything in a combination of the two. I really thought about pocketing one of these little bottles of heaven.

Piccolo Sogno's own imported balsamic vinegar..to die for!

Caprese with oven dried tomatoes, basil, and imported buffalo mozzarella
As a huge fan of all things tomato, my dad chose Piccolo's version of a caprese salad. This was the most beautiful of appetizers, a colorful palette of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. This may have been one time in my life where I wished I liked tomatoes! Gorgeous!

Peach salad with peaches, baby arugula, lemon oil and goat cheese
My mom went with a mixed green salad with seasonal peaches, goat cheese (my fave!) and lemon oil. The sweetness of the peach slices nicely balanced the tart lemon oil. I also loved the combination of textures including the crunch of the peaches mixed with the creaminess of the goat cheese.

Next, it was time for the main course. My sister chose one of the daily specials, a plate full of hand-formed ravioli in a butter sauce topped with a generous portion of shaved truffles. If you've ever had the pleasure of enjoying a truffle, you know the intense flavor each of these little fungi is capable of producing. This was the dish I secretly wanted to order, but hoped someone else would since I didn't think I could handle a full portion of the rich pasta. Fortunately, my sister was in a sharing mood so I was able to sample a bite. The truffle flavor was immediately evident, as was the velvety sauce on those pillows of pasta. This was truly a delicious pasta experience!

Ravioli special with butter and shaved truffles
Both of my parents went with the same entree, a pounded and grilled cornish hen served with a side of rapini. They both enjoyed the tenderness of the chicken that was well-seasoned. I'm not a big fan of rapini (think broccoli, only more bitter) because of its texture and overly bitter flavor, and my parents weren't either. This dish could have used a potato side or at least a less bitter green.

Flattened grilled cornish hen with rapini and lemon
Finally, I decided to try the "Straw and Hay" pasta that I had eyed over at the table next to ours. Whenever I go to a nice Italian restaurant, 9 times out of 10 I will order pasta if it is homemade. Being the pasta snob that I am, it's almost a crime not to, if they're serving up anything but Barilla. The tender waves of colored pasta were delicious, yet the veal ragu was lacking in flavor. Perhaps it was missing a bit of seasoning or salt, but it just didn't have a flavorful kick. I should have added some of my sister's shaved truffles!

“Straw and Hay” green and white ribbon noodles, veal ragu
As we were nearing the end of our main course, I noticed the weather outside had cleared. Since the main reason we chose to visit Piccolo Sogno was for its beautiful patio, I asked our waiter if we could be seated outside for our dessert. The staff kindly accommodated us and led us to a nice table outside. I tried to look past the still-wet tables and chairs and take in the beautiful nighttime view. It was amazing just how many tables they could fit on that patio! The mixture of colorful lights, trees and umbrellas provided a nice ambiance for our meal's end.

Piccolo Sogno's prized outdoor patio
As you may know, I'm a lover of all things sweet and baked good so I was looking forward to the variety of desserts Piccolo Sogno had to offer. We chose their version of a chocolate molten cake that was presented with hazelnut gelato. This was the best part of our meal as well as the best thing since Nutella! Four big bites later, it was all gone.

A sweet birthday chocolate cake
Ricotta cheesecake
To balance out the chocolately flavor (and because we were celebrating here, people!) my mom ordered a second dessert for the table. The homemade cheesecake was no Eli's. It featured more of a chunky rather than smooth texture due its ricotta cheese base. Although not overly sweet, the texture bothered me, but it was a hit with the rest of the fam.

All in all, we managed to turn a stormy Sunday into a culinary experience with a happy ending. The service at Piccolo Sogno was exceptional and I can't thank them enough for allowing us on the patio for dessert. I recommend trying one of their pasta specials and gorgeous salads to accompany a nice bottle of wine. For a special occasion, or just a scenic dinner, Piccolo Sogno's outdoor patio is a must-see in Chicago! Just make sure you dress to impress! Piccolo Sogno gets four stars for its attentive service, fresh ingredients and picturesque patio.

Piccolo Sogno
464 North Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60642
312-421-0077 
Reservations Strongly Recommended

Piccolo Sogno on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. great post! Snaps for the foodtography. Also, big fan of their balsamic, something stellar.

    ReplyDelete