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Pensiero Ristorante (was Va Pensiero), Evanston

Pensiero Ristorante (was Va Pensiero), Evanston
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  • Post #31 - July 28th, 2010, 5:50 pm
    Post #31 - July 28th, 2010, 5:50 pm Post #31 - July 28th, 2010, 5:50 pm
    Katie wrote:I know what it's really for ... just think maybe, at some point, we should stop calling a profit recovery fee a corkage fee. $15 seems steep to me, but others more accustomed to dining at the higher end of the spectrum might consider it more reasonable than do I.

    There are some places where the corkage is $35. And at some places that would be a lot closer to the profit they make on the average bottle of wine.

    Of course, there are also plenty of BYO places with low or no corkage fees too. Lots of different places to meet everyone's preferences.
  • Post #32 - July 28th, 2010, 6:18 pm
    Post #32 - July 28th, 2010, 6:18 pm Post #32 - July 28th, 2010, 6:18 pm
    $15 is pretty reasonable by Chicago standards. If I recall correctly Trotters used to charge $50. If you eliminate the profit from drinks, you need to add to the cost of the food.
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #33 - July 28th, 2010, 7:47 pm
    Post #33 - July 28th, 2010, 7:47 pm Post #33 - July 28th, 2010, 7:47 pm
    Yeah, $15 seems very reasonable to me . . . you very rarely seek corkage under $20 at nicer restaurants and I think it's perfectly reasonable for them to make up for the inability to sell their own purchased wines.
  • Post #34 - July 29th, 2010, 12:16 am
    Post #34 - July 29th, 2010, 12:16 am Post #34 - July 29th, 2010, 12:16 am
    G Wiv wrote:Woke up this morning with a smile on my face from a very pleasant dream. No, not a young Carol Channing, but Truffled Tagliatelle from Pensiero. Dramatic table-side service, fresh pasta mixed in a hollowed out wheel of Reggiano Parmagiano, combined with mushrooms, caramelized cauliflower, tomato concasse, Parmagiano Reggiano, herbs, pine nuts then plated. As if this were not enough Alan, with a Cheshire cat smile on his face, reaches into the pocket of his chef's coat and pulls out a golf ball size black truffle and liberally shaves it onto the pasta.

    It was a joy to revisit the truffled tagliatell in my just waking moments, I can only hope tomorrow morning brings a clothing optional CC dining at Pensiero, now that would be a way to start the day.

    I thought Gary was going to post these images but since he hasn't, please, allow me . . .


    Image
    The tagliatelle being tossed in the open wheel of Parmagiano Reggiano


    Image
    Truffle Tagliatelle

    I had a taste of this and needless to say, it was glorious! :)

    =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 #35 - July 30th, 2010, 7:42 am
    Post #35 - July 30th, 2010, 7:42 am Post #35 - July 30th, 2010, 7:42 am
    I live three blocks from Pensiero (nee Va Pensiero), and it’s been in my rather irregular rotation for the 12 years+ I’ve been in my current place.

    Va Pensiero has always been a chef-driven restaurant, most famously under Peggy Ryan, and less successfully under Jeff Muldrow. I respect the management for keeping Muldrow’s back of the house staff in tact, but it’s dramatic how the quality of the food has improved since it reopened as Pensiero. The only difference is that Jazzfood (aka chef Alan Lake) is now running the back of the house.

    Alan was a big factor in the success of our meal at Pensiero Wednesday night. He came out several times during our meal, and was the ultimate host. At one point, I mentioned to our guests that he had made the mutha of all caprese salads a few years ago at the LTH picnic:

    Image
    (GWiv photo)

    One of our guests commented on how much she loved caprese salads … Alan’s response was “Hey, I’ve got the ingredients in back to make you one.” Five minutes later, we were sharing a terrific, perfectly plated salad, with smiles all around. Not something that I’d expect to happen very often at a fine dining restaurant. Alan also came out with a special dish based on scouring farmers’ markets earlier in the day - squash blossoms stuffed with burrata cheese in two tomato sauces – one using red heirloom tomatoes, the other using yellow. The duck and the pork belly (my favorite) described upthread were both excellent, and the tagliatelle presentation was unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere - it's a real show to see the pasta being mixed in the parm wheel, then it was over the top when Jazzfood started shaving the truffle.

    With Alan at the helm, Pensiero is back to being the destination restaurant it once was. I’ll be back (and not only because it’s only three blocks away). Now if he could just get his jazz group performing again …
  • Post #36 - July 30th, 2010, 8:27 am
    Post #36 - July 30th, 2010, 8:27 am Post #36 - July 30th, 2010, 8:27 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Image
    The tagliatelle being tossed in the open wheel of Parmagiano Reggiano


    I have to say this pasta preperation looks amazing/interesting & almost tempts me to schlep up to Evanston... almost.
  • Post #37 - July 30th, 2010, 8:31 am
    Post #37 - July 30th, 2010, 8:31 am Post #37 - July 30th, 2010, 8:31 am
    jimswside wrote:I have to say this pasta preperation looks amazing/interesting & almost tempts me to schlep up to Evanston... almost.


    But where would you park the F350? :D
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #38 - July 30th, 2010, 8:40 am
    Post #38 - July 30th, 2010, 8:40 am Post #38 - July 30th, 2010, 8:40 am
    teatpuller wrote:
    But where would you park the F350? :D



    I drive a Honda pick-up truck. :D

    My wife used to live in Evanston, but we just rarely go back anymore, its in kind of a accessibility dead zone for us(no easy expressway/interstate access).

    I do have one question on the preperation of that dish, for how many preperations/days is the reggiano wheel/bowl reused?

    I imagine it must impart just a great flavor to the pasta prepared this way.
  • Post #39 - July 30th, 2010, 8:48 am
    Post #39 - July 30th, 2010, 8:48 am Post #39 - July 30th, 2010, 8:48 am
    jimswside wrote:I do have one question on the preperation of that dish, for how many preperations/days is the reggiano wheel/bowl reused?

    I imagine it must impart just a great flavor to the pasta prepared this way.

    Don't know the exact answer, but I can say the walls of the parm wheel on Wednesday 7/28 were considerably thinner than shown in Ronnie's photo (which I think was taken 7/11). Flavor was incredible. And I forgot to mention how perfectly toothsome the tagliatelle was.
  • Post #40 - July 30th, 2010, 8:56 am
    Post #40 - July 30th, 2010, 8:56 am Post #40 - July 30th, 2010, 8:56 am
    jimswside wrote:I have to say this pasta preperation looks amazing/interesting & almost tempts me to schlep up to Evanston... almost.


    Though I doubt it's as good as Pensiero's (which I have not tried), you can get pasta tossed tableside in a Parmigiano wheel at Carlucci's in Rosemont, where expressway access is far superior. Unfortunately, however, Carlucci's is a mediocre, overpriced restaurant - so do this only if you must witness the shtick first hand and don't want to trek into Evanston.

    Carlucci's
    6111 North River Road
    Rosemont, IL
    (847) 518-0990
    ...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 #41 - July 30th, 2010, 9:07 am
    Post #41 - July 30th, 2010, 9:07 am Post #41 - July 30th, 2010, 9:07 am
    I attended one of the pre-opening dinners at Pensiero Ristorante, when Alan was working out the kinks, but the highpoint of the dinner was certainly the Truffle Tagliatelle. If TOC doesn't list it as one of the top 100 dishes of the year, someone has explaining to do. It is a great dish in performance and in taste.
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #42 - July 31st, 2010, 10:51 am
    Post #42 - July 31st, 2010, 10:51 am Post #42 - July 31st, 2010, 10:51 am
    I had the pleasure of dining here last night with my wife. Everything is running very smoothly for such a new venture.
    For appetizers, my wife had the pork belly with risotta cake, and I had the heirloom tomatoes with burrata. My salad was simple, but with perfect tomatoes, creamy burrata (a nice change from mozzarella) and some excellent sweet balsamic poured over. For main dishes, my wife had the special ravioli with brown butter, a standard dish well executed, and I had the now near legendary (at least withing the contours of this thread) Truffle Tagliatelle. It lived up to expectations, as will the more than half that I took home and is awaiting me.

    Best of all was the chance to meet Jazzfood, who has made a career out of my two passions, jazz and food. These days, it seems finding the chef/owner and saying your an LTHer is like the secret handshake that leads to a warm and enjoyable conversation.

    Jonah
  • Post #43 - July 31st, 2010, 4:57 pm
    Post #43 - July 31st, 2010, 4:57 pm Post #43 - July 31st, 2010, 4:57 pm
    Now that Pensiero is under Alan's wing, we decided to celebrate our 39th anniversary there last night, and definitely do not regret our decision. We started with the cavolo nero, recommended by everyone on the thread, and found it spectacular. Alan explained that the recipe is his own invention, an Italianate riff on dolmades and East Eurpoean stuffed cabbage. The combination of flavors and textures is simultaneously striking and subtle. We also had the special of soft shell crab, which, if less surprising than the cavolo nero, was also exquisitely done. We followed with the linguine diavolo and the truffled tagliatelle. Catherine preferred the linguine and Robert the tagliatelle, but it was a tough call. By then, we only had room for a main course, and we split the duck breast, beautifully done (or should I say, not too done!) accompanied by a gorgonzola souffle which could stand on its own and a celeriac and apple puree with enough punch to stand up nicely to the duck. For desserts, we had the dark chocolate bombino and especially like the meyer lemon souffle, which, like great European desserts, was not overly sweet but refreshingly tart.
    We should mention, in light of the discussion of the corkage fee, that the wine list is extensive and quite reasonable. We had an excellent gavi for $34 or thereabouts, and many wines are equally reasonably priced. Factoring in the corkage fee, a wine of equivalent quality would not have been much cheaper.
    If the quality remains as consistent, Pensiero will rise from its ashes thanks to Alan.
    Bravo!
  • Post #44 - July 31st, 2010, 5:06 pm
    Post #44 - July 31st, 2010, 5:06 pm Post #44 - July 31st, 2010, 5:06 pm
    Jonah wrote:.....and I had the now near legendary (at least withing the contours of this thread) Truffle Tagliatelle. It lived up to expectations, as will the more than half that I took home and is awaiting me.

    Best of all was the chance to meet Jazzfood, who has made a career out of my two passions, jazz and food. These days, it seems finding the chef/owner and saying your an LTHer is like the secret handshake that leads to a warm and enjoyable conversation.
    Jonah,

    Agree, Truffle Tagliatelle is amazing, has to be to move a young Carol Channing from my dreams, even if just for a night. :)

    It should be noted Jazzfood/Chef Alan Lake is not a chef/owner of Pensiero. Michael Pure is owner of both hotel and restaurant, Jazzfood is consultant/chef at Pensiero.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #45 - August 11th, 2010, 7:57 am
    Post #45 - August 11th, 2010, 7:57 am Post #45 - August 11th, 2010, 7:57 am
    I'm thinking of a girl's night out very soon and I'd love to try Jazzfood's chow. Since the website's not up yet, what should I expect to pay per person (without drinks)?

    Thanks!
    I want to have a good body, but not as much as I want dessert. ~ Jason Love

    There is no pie in Nighthawks, which is why it's such a desolate image. ~ Happy Stomach

    I write fiction. You can find me—and some stories—on Facebook, Twitter and my website.
  • Post #46 - August 11th, 2010, 10:35 am
    Post #46 - August 11th, 2010, 10:35 am Post #46 - August 11th, 2010, 10:35 am
    Pie Lady wrote:I'm thinking of a girl's night out very soon and I'd love to try Jazzfood's chow. Since the website's not up yet, what should I expect to pay per person (without drinks)?

    On the previous page, Ronnie mentioned entree prices of $22-24 and desserts for $8.
  • Post #47 - August 11th, 2010, 10:39 am
    Post #47 - August 11th, 2010, 10:39 am Post #47 - August 11th, 2010, 10:39 am
    :oops: Oops, thanks.
    I want to have a good body, but not as much as I want dessert. ~ Jason Love

    There is no pie in Nighthawks, which is why it's such a desolate image. ~ Happy Stomach

    I write fiction. You can find me—and some stories—on Facebook, Twitter and my website.
  • Post #48 - August 19th, 2010, 6:51 am
    Post #48 - August 19th, 2010, 6:51 am Post #48 - August 19th, 2010, 6:51 am
    The is Pensiero website is up now with Open Table booking.

    http://www.pensieroitalian.com/
  • Post #49 - August 28th, 2010, 11:04 am
    Post #49 - August 28th, 2010, 11:04 am Post #49 - August 28th, 2010, 11:04 am
    LTH,

    My day-to-day involvement with Pensiero has come to an end. Our goals have been achieved, and I will be moving on to my next consulting gig.

    Thank you for your support and kind words. Please stay tuned for the further adventures of Jazzfood and join me in wishing Pensiero the best of luck.


    Alan
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #50 - August 28th, 2010, 11:11 am
    Post #50 - August 28th, 2010, 11:11 am Post #50 - August 28th, 2010, 11:11 am
    Jazzfood wrote:LTH,

    My day-to-day involvement with Pensiero has come to an end. Our goals have been achieved, and I will be moving on to my next consulting gig.

    Thank you for your support and kind words. Please stay tuned for the further adventures of Jazzfood and join me in wishing Pensiero the best of luck.


    Alan

    Alan,

    There were some very kind words written about your work at Pensiero by Heather Kenny in this week's Chicago Reader . . .

    Heather Kenny @ The Reader wrote:Likewise I've never had pork belly that was so unabashedly fatty and meltingly tender as Lake's in an Italian restaurant; it's served with exotic mushrooms and a crispy risotto cake. He also deconstructs crostini alla Toscana (a Tuscan appetizer of hot chicken liver paste on bread), serving soft whole grilled chicken livers speared on sprigs of rosemary. A condiment of jam made with onions and sweet marsala wine from Sicily—practically a foreign country to northern Italians—showed a deft ability to cross regional borders in a single recipe. Seemingly weightless ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach, accompanied by cubes of sauteed tart apples and sprinkled with pistachios, played up the savory nature of a familiar dish.

    Let's hope that permanent chef Christian Fantoni can maintain the high standards you set.

    =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 #51 - August 28th, 2010, 9:08 pm
    Post #51 - August 28th, 2010, 9:08 pm Post #51 - August 28th, 2010, 9:08 pm
    "A rolling truffle gathers no moss."
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #52 - August 30th, 2010, 9:15 am
    Post #52 - August 30th, 2010, 9:15 am Post #52 - August 30th, 2010, 9:15 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Let's hope that permanent chef Christian Fantoni can maintain the high standards you set.


    Interesting parallel here. A few years ago there was a lot of chatter in NY when the beloved and equally hated Fiamma abruptly shut its doors while Christian Fantoni was at the healm. After a few weeks the place reopened but Fantoni was out. Now he enters Chicago on the other side of the coin.
    ...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 #53 - September 3rd, 2010, 1:32 pm
    Post #53 - September 3rd, 2010, 1:32 pm Post #53 - September 3rd, 2010, 1:32 pm
    From Dish:

    "Benvenuto to Christian Fantoni, the new permanent chef at Pensiero Ristorante.... One week in, Fantoni is already making his mark. “My main goal is to lighten up the menu,” he says, which means eschewing the fussy Italian fare in favor of simpler trattoria dishes—think burrata with roasted yellow peppers and onions or truffled tagliatelle with mushrooms and Parmesan."

    Does this mean that some of the incredible dishes pictured upthread may be disappearing from the menu?
    "Life is a combination of magic and pasta." -- Federico Fellini

    "You're not going to like it in Chicago. The wind comes howling in from the lake. And there's practically no opera season at all--and the Lord only knows whether they've ever heard of lobster Newburg." --Charles Foster Kane, Citizen Kane.
  • Post #54 - September 3rd, 2010, 2:51 pm
    Post #54 - September 3rd, 2010, 2:51 pm Post #54 - September 3rd, 2010, 2:51 pm
    I hope that Jazzfood has already cashed his check. :lol:
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #55 - September 22nd, 2010, 4:27 pm
    Post #55 - September 22nd, 2010, 4:27 pm Post #55 - September 22nd, 2010, 4:27 pm
    Dish reports on heated words from Fantoni and Pure.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #56 - September 23rd, 2010, 4:56 am
    Post #56 - September 23rd, 2010, 4:56 am Post #56 - September 23rd, 2010, 4:56 am
    Fantoni went from one of the top Italian restaurants in NYC to making a wedge salad and chicken parm at a place in Aurora whose tag line is "you don't have to go downtown for that downtown feeling." Oh boy.
    ...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 #57 - September 23rd, 2010, 6:23 am
    Post #57 - September 23rd, 2010, 6:23 am Post #57 - September 23rd, 2010, 6:23 am
    Yikes not the best way to start off a new restaurant.
  • Post #58 - September 23rd, 2010, 11:06 am
    Post #58 - September 23rd, 2010, 11:06 am Post #58 - September 23rd, 2010, 11:06 am
    It seems abundantly clear that Pensiero made no plans for a transition between Jazzfood and their new chef. I would have imagined that the new chef would have been working closely with Alan in getting Pensiero up and running, but Fantoni's first statement was that he was going to change the menu and the style of cuisine. Why spend all those big bucks on having reconceptualizing the restaurant when you are not planning to use those ideas. But perhaps that disagreement is why Fantoni left.
    Last edited by GAF on September 23rd, 2010, 4:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #59 - September 23rd, 2010, 3:52 pm
    Post #59 - September 23rd, 2010, 3:52 pm Post #59 - September 23rd, 2010, 3:52 pm
    Kennyz wrote:Fantoni went from one of the top Italian restaurants in NYC to making a wedge salad and chicken parm at a place in Aurora whose tag line is "you don't have to go downtown for that downtown feeling." Oh boy.


    When I first read the news, I thought he had left for this Luigi's in Aurora: http://www.luigispizzaandfuncenter.com/
  • Post #60 - November 2nd, 2010, 10:06 am
    Post #60 - November 2nd, 2010, 10:06 am Post #60 - November 2nd, 2010, 10:06 am
    Apres jazzfood, le deluge
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”

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