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La vita e bella! - Life Is Beautiful at Piccolo Sogno Due.
This authentic Italian spin-off in the heart of Chicago’s River North neighborhood opened just in time for the height of summer. I excitedly got to taste test the heavenly seafood-focused menu during the grand opening soiree last week. I looked at it as an all-you-can-drink/eat (in the classiest way imaginable) situation so I could make my way through as much of the menu as was humanly possible; the crowd was doing the same thing. As soon as I would whip out my camera to document the amazing small bites, the servers were already making their way back to re-fill their trays.
It’s easy to see why I was counting down the days for the big opening, especially when Chef Tony Priolo, Ciro Longobardo (from Piccolo Sogno), and new partner Giovanni Sicilia are in the mix. Local big-time chef, Mr. Todd Stein (who attracted attention at Cibo Matto and the Florentine), serves as Chef de Cuisine and assured me that I could call him Todd as I aimlessly strolled through his streamlined kitchen – he is one of my faves!
Last Monday night, I was transported to the coastal regions of Italy for the evening: warm atmosphere, fragrant Italian accents, the finest locally-sourced ingredients, spanking fresh seafood, lively Italian wine (gotta love that prosecco!), crispy wood-fired pizza, house-made pasta and biscotti. There is no urgent need to fly to Sicily or Naples when you’ve got “The Little Dream: Part Two” right here on Clark Street.
Clearly, it wouldn’t be a true party without the dazzling Chicago socialite Candace Jordan in attendance; the talented jewelry designer Lana Bramlette, “Queen of Hoops,” was also spotted in the 130-seat blue, chocolate and yellow toned interior space. The focal point of the dining room, which I kept eyeing, is a beautiful colorful Raffaellesco dragon style mural, inspired by the famous Deruta ceramic art of Italy. Rest assured, sidewalk seating will wrap around the south side of the building and will seat up to 70 during the warm months with a charming view of the Clark Street Bridge.
Carefully constructed small plates continuously came my way (coincidence that I was standing thisclose to the bustling kitchen?); a few memorable items that Grandma (not mine, of course) couldn’t even pull off was the appealing seafood salad (screams summer!), the sumptuous oyster surprise, the perfect funghi pizze (mushrooms, mozzarella, taleggio, raddichio, thyme and a good crust for support) and the mouth-watering garganelli (quill pasta, meat, béchamel and tomato ragu). Incidentally, did I mention the non-traditional house-made bread includes squid-ink?
Needless to say, Piccolo Sogno Due isn’t just about great food; it’s about an honest, welcoming restaurant serving carefully prepared first-rate cuisine in a comfortable setting. Sit under the shiny chandeliers and socialize while interacting with the friendly, well-trained staff (shout out to Traci Diefenderfer) - this is your new hot spot for lunch and dinner with flavor you can depend on.