The time we went to Eataly & never stopped talking about it

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I really hate when new restaurants open and everyone is all “oh em gee, this place is the most amazing of all amazing restaurants to ever open on the planet”. Okay, okay, I get it, said new restaurant is great, calm down. Eataly opened a few weeks ago and subsequently, people have lost their minds over it. I’ve heard it’s packed around the clock, strangers have given me “insider tips” on how to navigate it and so on.

Ryan and I were doing some last minute shopping yesterday when I got super hungry, super fast. I was still in the clothes I went to Flywheel in and needed a quick bite, let’s just shoot into Eataly and grab a slice of pizza and head back out, we decided.

Oh. Em. Gee.

Choosing 2 slices of the most incredible focaccia pizza led to getting directions to the nearest wine barrel (turn right at the coffee bar, we were told), which led to us standing up at a tall bar, raving about the ricotta and dough and toasting to what has already been the best holiday season we’ve had. We watched people having as much fun as we were, strangers talking to each other, incredulous over this grocery store/restaurant/food stand/wine shop/cheese emporium/meat heaven/crudo station. Ryan drinks wine but isn’t usually as enthusiastic as I am; he insisted we get another glass, he was having so much fun, he didn’t want to leave. While waiting at one of the many bars, we met a stranger in from Denver en route to Christmas in Houston, bought his beer and said cheers to safe travels. We met an old man from Brooklyn that couldn’t believe that you could just walk around with wine-we clinked glasses with him on the escalator. We perused wine from the region I studied abroad in Italy, passed cheese wheels bigger than I am and got very, very, very excited about our honeymoon in Italy.

Basically, everyone losing their shit over Eataly is 100% spot on. This place is amazing.

We went for drinks with friends before and after dinner and literally couldn’t stop talking about it. We woke up this morning talking about it. We made tomato sauce and pasta from scratch today because we wanted more of that simple, whole food. Our buddy we were with last night texted today to say he and his fiancée got in a fight over chess- we told him to take her to Eataly to make amends.

We are those people. And I don’t even care. I am going to be thinking of our fun afternoon for weeks to come. And dreaming of that ricotta zucchini pizza…





Dinner Time: XOCO Edition

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XOCO had me at “on-site roasted cocoa beans”.

I finally checked out XOCO, beloved Chicago chef Rick Bayless’ take on Mexican street food and it was every bit as great as the line out the door suggested.  The smell coming from the kitchen that we were practically standing in as we placed our order almost filled me up, it was so incredible.

I said almost– I was still able to polish off my Seafood Verde (shrimp, scallops and avocado in a lime-cilantro sauce) and have a few bites of my mom’s Chicken Tinga Torta (mexican submarine sandwich that was unreal).  We ordered a churro to top off our meal (when in Rome Mexico, right?) and they threw in a little cup of the darkest melted chocolate I have ever tasted.  Perfection.

Go, go now- on your lunch break, for dinner, hell- XOCO is even open for breakfast.  My excitement level about XOCO rivals how I felt the first time I went to Grahamwich

Girl and the Goat

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After 3 months of waiting (“You don’t have a table available for a Saturday night until July?!”), Ryan and I finally had dinner at Girl and the Goat.  I have never been so excited for a Thursday night at 9:30pm in my life.

To be clear: I think a several month wait to get a table at a restaurant is ridiculous.  But in the case of Stephanie Izard‘s much raved about Girl and the Goat, it was totally and absolutely worth it.

I was so enthralled with our bottle of wine and food that this picture was all I captured- a last sip of wine and some bread scraps.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

The loft-esque dining room coupled with Tom Petty tunes was a great first impression.  And the food?  Creative AND delicious.  Favorites included the ahi tuna with blueberries and lamb sausage, soft shell crab with green tomato and fig, bread with banana-peanut butter butter and a side of honeycomb…the perfect mix of flavors without trying too hard.  Our very favorite dish, however, was the green beans!  We ordered on the recommendation of a co-worker and holy wow.  I would eat green beans every single day if they were covered in fish sauce.  O.M.G(oat).

Ry and I had a blast- nothing like 3 months of anticipation to take date night up a notch!  I totally recommend it and please- for the love of goat, order the green beans.

The Return of the Milano’s

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When I was a kid, my family came to Chicago pretty often.  Being from the west side of the Mitten, only a few hours from the Chi, anytime we were in need of great food and some shopping, we hopped in the car.  Like clockwork, our first stop when we got into town was Papa Milano’s.  It was my family’s absolute favorite Italian restaurant on the planet.  Their red sauce was TDF (to-die-for), the gnocchi perfection and the hostess never failed to be wearing electric blue eye shadow.

One night, we asked the cab to take us the to corner of Oak and State in anticipation of some Papa Milano’s gloriousness and…nothing.  Papa Milano’s had closed.

To say my Dad was devastated is an understatement.  “How could they close Papa Milano’s?  It’s a Chicago institution!  And I want their house salad and I want it now!”.  He wrote the family, begging them to reopen, somewhere, anywhere.  When Barney’s and a Citibank went up on that corner…well, it was (almost) enough to make my dear old Dad swear off Chicago and Italian food forever.

I follow Penny Pollack, Chicago Mag’s dining editor, on Twitter and last night, she tweeted the tweet of all tweets: “The Family Behind Papa Milano’s returns with Mama Milano’s“.  Come this May, a pizza bar called Mama Milano’s will be open at 1419 North Wells!

A pizza bar!  In Old Town!  Giuseppe Pizza (tomato sauce, mozzarella, salami and olives) for everyone!

It turns out that people other than my family have been missing the Milano magic in Chicago.   Something tells me that my Dad is going to be visiting me a lot come May…