Thursday, March 12

Formento's: Old School Meets New School

It's a fact. We have a bazillion Italian restaurants in Chicago. Another fact: Formento's Chicago is unlike all the rest. It's got that old school red leather booth vibe, plus a modern spin thanks to the folks behind B. Hospitality (The Bristol, Balena, and soon-to-be Armor & Swift). B. Hospitality's John Ross and Phil Walters, along with chef and partner Tony Quartaro, are cooking up some fantastic Italian options in the West Loop.

The BF and I stopped in for a belated Valentine's Day dinner and were immediately greeted by John Ross who led us on an extensive tour of the gigantic restaurant. This place is massive! First of all, the kitchen is in the basement. They had to build down to create the space and the vents from the stoves actually go through the dining room on the floor directly above. You'd never have any idea though since they're disguised by brickwork. There are two separate dining rooms, one of which is divided into three separate coves, making it seem as intimate as possible. There's also a top floor for private dining, complete with a separate entrance (for the Beyonce's of the world).

After our tour, the BF and I grabbed a cozy red leather booth and scanned the menu extensively. The wine list is impressive. There's more than 500 selections! Good thing they have Wine Director, Steve Morgan and Sommelier, Leslie LaRue Lamont to guide you! The BF and I both enjoyed a glass of Formento's Barbaresco from Piedmont which they sell at Nonna's, their sandwich shop next door (side note: who wants to grab lunch there?!).

We noshed on wonderful housemade focaccia and giardiniera while browsing the dinner menu.

Housemade Focaccia
Housemade Focaccia
Housemade Giardiniera
Housemade Giardiniera
We started with the relish tray which offers something for everyone: stuffed olives, eggplant, rinforzo salad, stuffed radicchio, Ligurian beets, and the star of the show, sweet potato cannoli.

Relish Tray
Relish Tray
For our entree selections, we decided to trust John Ross' suggestions. After all, Formento's is named after his grandmother and many of the recipes are her's, so he's a trusty source! We started with the cannestri with Sunday gravy, AKA a hearty red sauce featuring pork neck, meatballs, and fennel sausage. The handmade pasta was divine, as was that gravy! Holy cow was this dish heavenly. I felt like I was being wrapped in a blanket of warmth eating that Sunday gravy. The dollop of cheese on top of the cannestri was extremely velvety and added to the entire melt-in-your-mouth experience of the dish.

Cannestri
Cannestri
Sunday Gravy
Sunday Gravy
The BF and I also split a dish we probably would have never ordered had John not recommended it to us, the quail saltimbocca. Neither one of us had tried quail before and we were both converts. The quail is pounded thin and wrapped in prosciutto. There was a generous portion of smoked cauliflower, as well as sage and hazelnuts. It might not be the most photogenic entree, but it was very good!

Quail Saltimbocca
Quail Saltimbocca
What Italian meal is complete without a massive dessert? Enter the chocolate cake. At a whopping nine layers, this is decadence at its finest. The hazelnut praline provides a nice crunch between layers of luscious chocolate pudding and cake. I'm salivating at the thought of it.

Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Cake
I have nothing but high praise for Formento's. I applaud them for doing something truly unique. If you're looking for hospitality, you'll feel right at home here.

I'm giving Formento's 4.5 ghosts out of 5!


Formento's
www.formentos.com
925 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60607
312.690.7295
Formento’s on Urbanspoon

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