Monteverde | 1020 W Madison St. | (312) 888-3041 | monteverdechicago.com
Everyone loves a good Italian meal, right? I mean, it’s hard to go wrong – carbs, cheese, wine, more carbs, more cheese, more wine. Right. What’s not to love?
Although, at times, it can be difficult to find an innovative Italian meal – one that strays from your grandmother’s classic baked ziti. Don't get me wrong, there’s nothing negative about traditional Italian dishes. But, every once in a while, it’s nice to have an Italian dish that’s outside of the box; one that pushes the boundaries. Cue Monteverde.
Monteverde comes from the renowned Chef Sarah Grueneberg, former executive chef of Spiaggia, which earned three consecutive Michelin Stars under her leadership. You also know Grueneberg as the “Top Chef: Texas” runner-up. Ah yes, it’s all coming back now, right?
When a hot new spot from a celebrity chef comes to town, where else would you find it other than, you guessed it, the West Loop? Situated on West Madison Street, Monteverde’s rustic chic interior is layered in neutrals that softly glow under dim lighting.
Dried pasta hangs throughout the restaurant making you feel as if you’ve wandered into an authentic kitchen somewhere in the hills of Italy. A large mirror overtaking the east wall is framed in large, muted turquoise tiles and its presence gives the illusion that the restaurant continues into another dining room.
The main lure; however, is the bar in the center of the restaurant. Not because that’s where the booze come from – which of course, is a great attraction in itself. But rather, this is where two women – who actually could be your Italian grandmothers – are stationed, kneading, rolling, cutting and stuffing pasta made from scratch. An oblong vintage mirror hangs above the butcher-block counter allowing patrons to easily admire the manipulation of the dough.
Speaking of dough, it just so happens to be the main star of Monteverde’s menu, with two dedicated sections: pasta tipica (Italy’s pasta) and pasta atipica (our pasta). The rest of the menu is divided into snacks, small plates and larger dishes to share with the table. There are also a few daily features as well as a vegetable of the day. Everything on the menu varies slightly depending on the season, but one thing that stays the same, is the incredible talent behind the dishes and the remarkable flavors that welcome your taste buds with each bite.
What to order: Depending on the size of your party – and of your appetite – the amount of dishes you’ll order will vary. While it’s easy to order individually, I recommend ordering from all sections of the menu and sharing everything family style. Your waiter will most likely recommend this, too.
While the menu is always changing, one item seems to stay put: the arancini. And that’s for a reason. If you like fried goodness, order these.
The snacks and small plates range from light and refreshing like Hamachi crudo to slightly heartier: think crostini. Currently on the menu is the prosciutto butter toast with mixed radish, dill and lemon. This small snack hits every flavor profile you want: salty, sweet, acidic. It’s crunchy; it’s smooth; it’s everything. It’s also beautiful, as are all of Chef Gruenberg’s dishes.
Whatever you do, make sure that at least one dish you order is a pasta dish. The pasta is cooked perfectly al dente, and the ingredients Gruenberg chooses to accompany the starch are picked perfectly. Think tortelli with zucchini, trumpet mushrooms, lemon, parley and freshly grated truffle.
By this point, you’ll probably be quite full, but hopefully you saved room for dessert. Whether or not this is true, make sure you order something sweet. The dessert menu features several inventive adaptations on classic Italian dishes such as a butterscotch budino with pecan toffee. More of a chocoholic? Go for the double chocolate ganache tart. It will change your life.
W&D tip: Sit at the bar. Rick Bayless does it. No really, we sat next to him at the bar. But that’s not why it’s the best spot in the house. From the bar, you have a front-row seat to watch hand-made pasta being rolled and cut, as well as a good view of desert being made and a peek into the kitchen. Plus, it’s easy access to the vino.
W&D says: 14.5/15*
Good for: Sharing, date night, dinner
Star of the show: Pasta
Neighborhood: West Loop
*How I calculate my ratings: There are three categories I rate: 1) Food 2) Ambiance 3) Service. Each has a scale of 1-5. I tally the three scores and then average them.