A Pleasant Surprise on Michigan Ave.

January 19, 2015

Any time a restaurant opens on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, one has to be suspicious of a) whether it's a chain, and b) whether it's going to be pretty terrible. Michigan Avenue Italian restaurant Acanto is neither of those things. Last summer, Billy Lawless, owner of The Dawson and The Gage, closed French restaurant Henri on Michigan Avenue to make room for his Italian restaurant concept, Acanto. The new space is WAY more casual than Henri was and is decked out in warm tones. The space is on the smaller side, but tables are not on top of one another a la New York City. The BF surprised me with a visit to Acanto on a Friday night and we had a wonderful experience from start to finish.

First we started with a bottle of red that general manager and sommelier Jon McDaniel selected for us.  We basically told him what styles and flavor profile we liked and he recommended a nice bottle.

Acanto's menu is divided into meats and cheeses, starters including salads and small plates, large items included meat and fish, as well as a selection of handmade pastas. They also feature a daily pizza option. We began our meal by selecting two cheeses from California's Bohemian Creamery which supplies all of the cheeses on Acanto's menu. 

Assorted Cheeses
We also enjoyed a generous portion of prosciutto di parma. While I would have preferred the prosciutto to be served with bread instead of the whole wheat crispy bread pillows, it did come with a tiny pot of parmesan fondue! Two words that should always be together...parmesan and fondue. We enjoyed every last bite of the meats, cheeses and fondue. 

Prosciutto di Parma
Our server (who was super attentive and knowledgeable about the menu) told us about their daily pizza special which included fennel pork sausage, ricotta, parmesan, roasted mushrooms, and balsamic. I was pretty much sold on all of those ingredients so we had to go for it. Acanto also offers the ability to add 10 grams of shaved white truffles to any dish for $30. That may sound like a lot but it's pretty much at cost! I convinced the BF to add truffle to our pizza and it was unbelievable. Now I can say I've eaten a $50 pizza! The flavors of the fennel sausage, mushrooms, and balsamic were wonderful with the aroma from the white truffles. We were in heaven.

Pizza with Fennel Pork Sausage, Ricotta, Parmesan, Roasted Mushrooms, and Balsamic
I'm a sucker for handmade pasta (and carbs!) so we tried the black peppercorn rigatoni with spiced lamb ragout, bread crumbs, and caciocavallo cheese. You could tell the pasta was handmade by the texture and it had a hearty flavor that was perfect for warming us up on the cold Chicago night.

Black Peppercorn Rigatoni with Spiced Lamb Ragout, Bread Crumbs, and Caciocavallo Cheese
Lastly, we were spoiled with three desserts that we were told we had to try. First up was my favorite, an extremely decadent chocolate hazelnut budino with mascarpone cream, candied hazelnuts, and hazelnut shortbread. Get this dessert. It was like eating the world's best Nutella X 10.

Gianduja Budino
We also tried two varieties of affogato, served with liquor instead of the traditional espresso. These were quite boozy! The first featured Amaro Nonino with pistachio gelato, while the second included Lazzarni Amaretto with amarena cherry gelato. These were both fantastic but we were partial to the budino.

Amaro Nonino with Pistachio Gelato
Lazzarni Amaretto with Amarena Cherry Gelato
Overall, our experience at Acanto was wonderful. Everything we had was delicious, the prices were reasonable given the restaurant's location, and the staff was super friendly and knowledgeable. I'm giving Acanto 4.5 out of 5 ghosts! Check it out the next time you're down on Michigan Avenue or in Millennium Park.

18 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
Acanto on Urbanspoon

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