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    Post #1 - August 7th, 2009, 5:51 am
    Post #1 - August 7th, 2009, 5:51 am Post #1 - August 7th, 2009, 5:51 am
    Our meal at Fianco, the new Italian restaurant in Lakeview, was good enough that I want to return and try more things. We had some hits and misses, and I came away with both an appreciation for the excellent ingredient quality, and a belief that there is enough cooking talent to shine brighter than it did last night on the whole.


    Bread and herb butter:
    Image
    The bread was fresh and served warm. It was a little too dense, and there wasn't much to the crust. Still pleasant. If I had to guess, I'd say it was from Red Hen.


    Grilled octopus:
    Image
    Sharp, tasty celery leaves were an excellent garnish for this dish, though what the menu described as "pistacchio-chili gremolata" was relatively flavorless. The menu described the long beans as "tongue of fire beans," but I always thought those were a pretty deep red color, and were shelling beans. These were pale green and the whole pod was very tender. Whatever they're called, they were really delicious, and tasted like they'd been just-picked. Unfortunately, the thicker parts of the octopus itself were pretty severely undercooked, bordering on inedible.


    Maltagliata:
    Image
    Though the dish was oversauced, the sauce tasted like very nice, sweet, fresh tomatoes. The hand made pasta was just beautifully done.


    Milk braised and grilled pork:
    Image
    This wasn't what I was expecting, as when I have had this classic Italian dish, it's always served with the rustic-looking, wonderfully rich braising liquid as a sauce. In the classic dish, the sauce looks like clumpy, curdled milk (which is essentially what it is), and I suspect that the chef believes (probably rightly) that the appearance would repulse the Southport corridor crowd. Classic or not, this was one of the best braised pork shoulders I've ever had. The long braising time (10 hours according to our server) yielded dead-perfect meat texture: fork tender without becoming anything close to mush. I'm sure it was grilled over live coals at service, which imparted lots of smoky bark to contrast the succulent meat. Simply fantastic. I can't say I loved the accompaniments as much. Those beans were a little underdone, and the slow roasted tomatoes combined with too much reduced balsamic to create a candy-like sweetness that distracted from the outstanding meat.

    Blurry interior shot of the pork:
    Image
    Really good pork!


    Dessert::
    Image
    decent store-bought chocolate gelato and biscotti. Good espresso. I found the dessert menu pretty uninspired.


    Fianco has a live jazz guitarist on Thursday nights, and I can certainly see myself returning for some relaxing music and tasty food.


    Fianco
    3440 N. Southport Ave.
    Chicago, IL
    773-327-6400.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #2 - August 25th, 2009, 8:16 am
    Post #2 - August 25th, 2009, 8:16 am Post #2 - August 25th, 2009, 8:16 am
    I notice on their website that they only take reservations for parties of 6 or more. Does anyone know what the weekend (Friday/Saturday) crowds are like for walk-ins?
  • Post #3 - August 29th, 2009, 11:55 am
    Post #3 - August 29th, 2009, 11:55 am Post #3 - August 29th, 2009, 11:55 am
    We went to Fianco for the second time last night and had, again, a meal that easily exceeded expectations for a neighborhood Italian joint by a long ways.

    Despite having eaten my bison quotient in Wyoming recently, I ordered the bison ravioli. The result was a dish that reminded me of Justin Large's superb testa ravioli at the mulefoot dinner-- meat enrobed in marvelously delicate pasta, nicely set off by a broth with a hint of lemon, accompanied by corn bursting with in-season flavor.

    One of us had the pasta Kennyz describes as having too much tomato-- which it probably does, but the pasta, again, is so delicate it's a wonderful dish, leagues above the usual pasta and marinara.

    Another had duck in brodo-- slices of duck, nicely roasted, in a broth with cavolo nero and again, some feather-light gnocchi.

    We ended with a dessert of little doughnuts, a nicely homemade vanilla bourbon ice cream, and an espresso-tinged chocolate sauce.
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  • Post #4 - August 29th, 2009, 3:51 pm
    Post #4 - August 29th, 2009, 3:51 pm Post #4 - August 29th, 2009, 3:51 pm
    Mike,

    Glad to hear Fianco is going strong, and I look forward to returning. Also very interesting to see the contrast between the milk braised pork, as it appears in your SFoB entry, and the one that appears in my post above. Those look like two entirely different dishes.

    Kenny
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #5 - November 15th, 2009, 11:30 pm
    Post #5 - November 15th, 2009, 11:30 pm Post #5 - November 15th, 2009, 11:30 pm
    Went to dinner for the first time at Fianco on Friday night and thought it was ok. 4 of us tried a bunch of dishes and the results were mixed.

    We started out with 4 appetizers . . .

    Grilled Baby Octopus - romesco sauce, cannellini beans, escarole
    This tasted fresh and was only slightly chewy. There was really no noticeable charring on it, which led to an overly fleshy mouthfeel. Some of the cannellini beans served with it were seriously undercooked. Others were fine.

    Image
    Duroc Pork Belly - sambuca glaze, sweet fennel jam, pickled fresno chili, brussels sprout leaves
    Really enjoyed this piece of tender belly, which had a wonderful exterior crust and an ideal fat to meat ratio. The sambuca glaze didn't wow me but the belly outshined it easily.

    House-made Pate - whole grain mustard, house-made pickles, preserves and olive oil crackers
    Just fine. More of a mousse than a pate. Nothing wrong with it but not compelling in any way, either.

    Image
    Arancini - fried risotto, fontina cheese, squash puree, fried rapini greens, parmesan
    Really nice. Great textures, flavors and aromas. The pungent parmesan was a particularly nice note.

    Next, we moved on to a salad and a couple of pastas . . .

    Image
    Baked Salad - roasted tomato and teleggio tart, frisee, bacon, chives, sherry walnut vinaigrette
    I really liked this salad, which combined the buttery pastry with super bouncy frisee and crispy bacon. What wasn't listed on the menu, anchovy perhaps, was a great addition to the tart. A very nice dish.

    Gigli - horn-shaped pasta, house-made lamb sausage, mushrooms, rapini, ricotta salata
    Far less than the sum of its parts. The whole dish was somewhat watery and bland. It just didn't come together well. The sausage was not very flavorful at all and had a steamed quality to it. None of the other components really delivered much flavor, either.

    Image
    Hand-made Black Pepper Pappardelle - wild boar bolognese style, parsley, pecorino
    Utterly fantastic dish. The texture of the noodles was perfection. The flavors were rich, intense and completely wonderful.

    We fishished up with a couple entrees and a couple sides . . .

    Duck Meatballs - braised fennel, stewed tomato sauce, spoon polenta, parmesan
    Something just went wrong here. There was so much black pepper upon tasting this dish, everyone at the table immediately said 'mistake.'

    Balsamic braised and grillled Bison Short Ribs - pan-roasted brussels sprouts, olive oil smashed potatoes, bison jus, gin soaked raisins
    Very nice dish. Hearty and tasty like you'd expect from a braised dish.

    Braised Cabbage - Seedling Farms apple cider, bacon lardons, crispy sage
    Tender with layers of well-developed, complementary flavors.

    Roasted Brussels Sprouts - lemon zest, pancetta, parsley
    Roasted very nicely but virtually swimming in oil.

    Beyond the food, I thought service was just ok. Even though the restaurant wasn't even half-full at 8:30 on a Friday evening, our server did the bare minimum. Until we prompted her, she deposited dishes on the table with zero explanation. Since none of us are comfortably familiar with Italian wine, we asked her for a recommendation. What she suggested did not match up at all with the attributes we told her we were seeking. It just felt like she wasn't engaged at all.

    Overall, the meal was up and down. There were things I liked and more things that I didn't. With the exception of the pappardelle, nothing about our meal was particularly compelling. The 4 dishes pictured above are the 4 I would order again, if I were to return. If I were out with people who wanted to go there, or was hungry and in the neighborhood, I could see returning but I can't see making Fianco a future destination. I say this because there are so many places I've never been, that I'm rarely eager to return somewhere that doesn't uniformly impress me. Nothing at Fianco is calling me back.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #6 - November 16th, 2009, 5:47 am
    Post #6 - November 16th, 2009, 5:47 am Post #6 - November 16th, 2009, 5:47 am
    Ronnie,

    Thanks for the nice report. I've been to Fianco three times now, and my experiences very much mirror yours, though my conclusion is different. There are some truly wonderful dishes, along with some duds that result from what I think is careless cooking. While such experiences might keep you from returning, I'll be back for three reasons: (1) the place is almost close enough to me to be considered my neighborhood restaurant (2) there is a sad dearth of Italian restaurants in Chicago putting out food of this quality and (3) once one learns the menu's strong suit, I think it's possible to possible to put together an evening of uniformly excellent dishes at Fianco.

    Kenny
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #7 - January 25th, 2010, 2:28 pm
    Post #7 - January 25th, 2010, 2:28 pm Post #7 - January 25th, 2010, 2:28 pm
    Just saw that chef Matt Troost announced that Fianco has closed. Although not a perfect restaurant, it was a promising one (and certainly one of the few bright spots on Southport's very plastic dining scene) and I hope we will hear more from the chef.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #8 - January 25th, 2010, 4:10 pm
    Post #8 - January 25th, 2010, 4:10 pm Post #8 - January 25th, 2010, 4:10 pm
    Bummer! Fianco is in my 'hood as well and I very much enjoyed my two evenings there and had every intention of making it back in soon. This neighborhood is strangely devoid of restaurants in the "Fianco" category--such a contrast to Andersonville or Lincoln Square, both of which have so many options. Not that these are far but not a quick walk either. Other than the three pan-latin concepts (Coobah, Bull-a-dias and Frida's--not a fan of any of them), a couple of really mediocre sushi spots and Blue Bayou, there's only bar menus, breakfast and hotdogs to be found.

    Hope this will improve along with the economy...
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #9 - January 25th, 2010, 6:28 pm
    Post #9 - January 25th, 2010, 6:28 pm Post #9 - January 25th, 2010, 6:28 pm
    This saddens me. It was my "go to" italian spot in Lakeview. I guess Socca and Sola will have to suffice unless I decide to visit Andersonville and dine at Anteprima....which is conveniently near my Kung Fu training facility. I still need to check out Ceres' Table too.
  • Post #10 - January 25th, 2010, 7:05 pm
    Post #10 - January 25th, 2010, 7:05 pm Post #10 - January 25th, 2010, 7:05 pm
    TAC Crazy wrote:This saddens me. It was my "go to" italian spot in Lakeview. I guess Socca and Sola will have to suffice unless I decide to visit Andersonville and dine at Anteprima....


    Socca might be faintly Italian, but Sola? I don't think so.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #11 - January 25th, 2010, 7:09 pm
    Post #11 - January 25th, 2010, 7:09 pm Post #11 - January 25th, 2010, 7:09 pm
    Never made it out to Fianco even though I walk by it almost every day. I was planning a trip pretty soon to use the A La Card, but I guess it wasn't to be.

    Fiorentino's on Ashland is pretty good. It's our go to Italian spot in the neighborhood.
    http://www.fiorentinoscucina.com/

    And of course, Terra Gusto. But every time I think about going the wait is too long. I can't bring myself to make a reservation to a restaurant that's walking distance, but I may break down eventually.
  • Post #12 - January 25th, 2010, 7:24 pm
    Post #12 - January 25th, 2010, 7:24 pm Post #12 - January 25th, 2010, 7:24 pm
    Kennyz wrote:
    TAC Crazy wrote:This saddens me. It was my "go to" italian spot in Lakeview. I guess Socca and Sola will have to suffice unless I decide to visit Andersonville and dine at Anteprima....


    Socca might be faintly Italian, but Sola? I don't think so.


    Woops. My bad. Yep Sola is definitely not in that category. I meant to say Sapori.

    Thanks for the suggestion on Fiorentino
  • Post #13 - January 25th, 2010, 7:53 pm
    Post #13 - January 25th, 2010, 7:53 pm Post #13 - January 25th, 2010, 7:53 pm
    TAC Crazy wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:
    TAC Crazy wrote:This saddens me. It was my "go to" italian spot in Lakeview. I guess Socca and Sola will have to suffice unless I decide to visit Andersonville and dine at Anteprima....


    Socca might be faintly Italian, but Sola? I don't think so.


    Woops. My bad. Yep Sola is definitely not in that category. I meant to say Sapori.

    Thanks for the suggestion on Fiorentino


    Have to say, not a Fiorentinos' fan--thought the menu was pretty uninspiring and expensive for what it was. I do love Anteprima--feel like the prices were a bit higher than Fianco's though. I actually like Calo's as well--fought going there forever since all I knew of it were their awful ads for ribs and fried cheese (!!) but at my non-foodie BF's insistence, I agreed to go and have now been back at least 6 times. All solid, and in some cases, even interesting (the smoked Braid salad) meals. Haven't stopped hearing the end of it since :twisted:
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #14 - January 25th, 2010, 8:25 pm
    Post #14 - January 25th, 2010, 8:25 pm Post #14 - January 25th, 2010, 8:25 pm
    boudreaulicious wrote:Have to say, not a Fiorentinos' fan--thought the menu was pretty uninspiring and expensive for what it was.


    Agreed. Not a terrible place, but I've been there three times, and on each occasion I felt like the bill was about 20 bucks higher than it had a right to be.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #15 - January 25th, 2010, 8:52 pm
    Post #15 - January 25th, 2010, 8:52 pm Post #15 - January 25th, 2010, 8:52 pm
    That is a bummer. It was on my list as I found the menu intriguing. I also live very near Fianco, and struggle with where to go for Italian in the near vicinity. We usually end up at Fiorentino's or La Gondola. Neither stand up to a La Scarola IMO, but serve us just fine for the neighborhood.

    BTW - dined at Mia Francesca with some gift certificates and found it to be almost completely average.

    La Gondola
    2914 N. Ashland Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60657
  • Post #16 - January 25th, 2010, 9:42 pm
    Post #16 - January 25th, 2010, 9:42 pm Post #16 - January 25th, 2010, 9:42 pm
    turkob wrote:Never made it out to Fianco even though I walk by it almost every day. I was planning a trip pretty soon to use the A La Card, but I guess it wasn't to be.



    Ditto. Just filled out my SASE for A La Card. 1 restaurant offered in the deck closed before the end of the 1st month of the year is not good.

    Oh well, there are still other opportunities in the deck.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #17 - February 5th, 2010, 1:00 pm
    Post #17 - February 5th, 2010, 1:00 pm Post #17 - February 5th, 2010, 1:00 pm
    According to Fianco's voicemail, they re-open March 1. Looks like they're just taking some time off.

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