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Gaetano's in Forest Park - Chef Benedetto is back

Gaetano's in Forest Park - Chef Benedetto is back
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  • Gaetano's in Forest Park - Chef Benedetto is back

    Post #1 - April 10th, 2008, 11:06 am
    Post #1 - April 10th, 2008, 11:06 am Post #1 - April 10th, 2008, 11:06 am
    Chef Gaetano Di Benedetto, formerly of La Piazza in Forest Park, has a new restaurant that he just opened 2 weeks ago called, creatively enough, Gaetano’s. It is also in Forest Park on Madison, but further west from where La Piazza was located (it is a little west of Des Plaines Ave), and my parents and I, along with my 10 month old, went there last night.

    I only went to La Piazza once, but it was excellent, and I was excited about trying his new place. The new restaurant itself is nicely decorated, with interesting art on the walls and an open kitchen in back. It is small, though, and only seats about 60 people (they have about 18 tables total). Our waitress was very accommodating and personable, and the same white bean puree appetizer that was at La Piazza was served here (with the focaccia bread) and which I find somewhat addictive.

    We had all eaten not to long before, but since we had my 10 month old with us, we planned on eating an early dinner (5:30) and getting home for her 6:30 bed time. Since we weren’t that hungry, we only ordered one appetizer to split amongst us, and so my dad ordered the foie gras with berries in a balsamic glaze. I know – ordering foie gras in an Italian place may seem a bit odd, but my father never paid attention to geographical boundaries anyway. And I am glad he did order it, because it was one of the better foie gras I have had in a long time. The liver was actually cut into smaller pieces, mimicking the cut-up strawberries and blackberries size, allowing them to have slightly more searing ratio to every bite, and the sauce was delicious. We scooped up any leftover juice hurriedly with the bread.

    For dinner, we all zoned in on the pasta chitarra, which is fresh pasta that is cut with a string-like instrument into thin strands. It was cooked in a tomato-garlic sauce with fresh buffalo mozzarella. It was also very good, with lots of garlic flavor and the fresh pasta giving a very good springy bite.

    My one complaint would be the timing problem. We arrived a little after 5:30, and there were only 2 other tables occupied at the time. Our appetizer took 30 minutes to arrive, and then we waited another 30 minutes, at which point our entrees had still not arrived. Because it was now past my daughter’s bedtime, I had to ask for them to just box up the food and we would eat it at home (and it still took another 10 minutes for us to actually get the food from that point).

    My overall impression is that this is, or will be, a very good restaurant and a great addition to Forest Park (and Oak Park). The Chef is very accommodating, and he stopped by our table just to see how things were going (before the wait really started to be an issue). Although a little pricey for the area (entrée averages are $15-30), I think you get what you pay for. I do think Chef Benedetto’s culinary skills are excellent, and I look forward to eating here again. However, you may want to wait until they work out some of their kinks or go when you do not have any time schedule to keep.

    Gaetano’s
    7636 Madison St
    Forest Park, IL
    708-366-4161
    www.gaetanos.us
    "My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people."

    -Orson Welles-
  • Post #2 - April 10th, 2008, 2:16 pm
    Post #2 - April 10th, 2008, 2:16 pm Post #2 - April 10th, 2008, 2:16 pm
    Matt, thanks for the update. I saw a sign for this place last week at the Brown Cow and have been anxious to try. Now, more so.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #3 - April 19th, 2008, 7:45 am
    Post #3 - April 19th, 2008, 7:45 am Post #3 - April 19th, 2008, 7:45 am
    Warning - Word is out at Gaetano's. My wife and I showed up reasonably early for dinner last night, we live right around the corner, and they were full up until 10:00. On the bright side, they did have two spots for us at the bar, which functioned much like eating at a kitchen table, in that we were able to watch di Benedetto and his sous chefs constructing the dishes.

    We ate:

    Antipasti

    Quail stuffed with fois-sausage stuffing, baked al forno. Outstanding.
    Seppie (baby cuttlefish actually, so seppioline, I think) stuffed with a breadcrumb tomato stuffing, served with baked tomatoes, all cooked al forno.

    The antipasti menu is long and fairly innovative. I really just want to go there with a few friends and order all of them, then call it dinner.

    Paste

    Cespo di Venere - A single sheet of pasta layered (imagine folding a towel over and back over itself) with smoked pheasant, wild boar, venison, cheese, and other delicacies), baked, then covered with cocoa and a milk foam. This is a wonderful dish, although I think it could use a little refinement. The smoke of the pheasant, although wonderful, tended to drown out the other flavors when combined in the same bite.

    A sea-food pasta baked in cartocchio. This was a large "frutti di mare" type pasta served with a tube pasta. Everything was cooked to perfection, but there was also a mildly spicy red pepper put into the packet, and slit open, to let the heat slowly leach into the rest of the dish. One of the best applications of subtle heat I've had.

    We had the creme brulee for dessert, which was lovely, but were too full to eat anything else.

    Service was good, although by sitting at the bar, we were privy to some conversations among the staff as they tried to figure things out, and periodic discussions about done-ness and plating in the kitchen. It's still a new restaurant, but I like that. It will only get better. Things came out in reasonably quick order, even though the restaurant was packed.

    Overall, I was thrilled. A lovely meal and we'll go back when we can afford it.

    My biggest criticism is that the pasta portions are too big to do a proper Italian meal of antipasta, pasta, and carni/pesce. But I suppose that's the way of things in this land of red sauce and meatballs.

    Lunch starts next week.
  • Post #4 - April 20th, 2008, 7:19 pm
    Post #4 - April 20th, 2008, 7:19 pm Post #4 - April 20th, 2008, 7:19 pm
    We were in the past weekend, and I am more than impressed. Like Borborigmy, I didn't have a choice but to bring my young daughter also, and I thought it might be a slight hindrance, based on my experience with other restaurants, but it wasn't. They seated us right away, and did explain that they normally give people 2 hour time slots to eat at a leisurely rate. With that in mind, all of our dishes were timed perfectly. There wasn't a lag between appetizers and entrees, and one didn't arrive before the other was finished either, as in other places I've eaten. The most impressive part I have to say about the restaurant is the beautiful bathrooms. They are 5-star hotel quality. Everything from top to bottom is first rate. I don't know if that was more important to me than the wonderful food we had and the outstanding service, because they were also first rate.
  • Post #5 - April 20th, 2008, 8:08 pm
    Post #5 - April 20th, 2008, 8:08 pm Post #5 - April 20th, 2008, 8:08 pm
    Closed Sunday :(
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #6 - April 21st, 2008, 10:19 am
    Post #6 - April 21st, 2008, 10:19 am Post #6 - April 21st, 2008, 10:19 am
    gleam wrote:Closed Sunday :(


    And Mondays!
  • Post #7 - April 21st, 2008, 11:36 am
    Post #7 - April 21st, 2008, 11:36 am Post #7 - April 21st, 2008, 11:36 am
    I loved La Piazza. It sounds like several menu items have transferred over -- for those who were familiar with the old menu, can you comment on what appears to be new or different? Are the yummy risottos still there? A few times I had the veal which was delicious. My husband, a traditionalist, loved the sausage, mushroom and goat cheese pasta and the seafood dishes (there was one in parchment). Also, are the prices similar?
    - Katie
  • Post #8 - April 25th, 2008, 8:07 am
    Post #8 - April 25th, 2008, 8:07 am Post #8 - April 25th, 2008, 8:07 am
    If you want to know, just go.

    Now this is more like Italian restaurants are in Italy. Gaetano comes out and brings dishes to the tables and describes how he cooks them, and waits for you to taste them, just like your mom would. The dining room is snug, but it's got a good family feel to it. Gaetano's wife was there nursing the baby, just like in an old mom and pop restaurant, where the moms walk around in old house dresses, hair scarves, and flip flops - she was just like that! I had to check to make sure I was still in Chicago. This place is an experience!

    And the food is just as good, if not better. Italy in Forest Park, it's worth the visit.
  • Post #9 - April 25th, 2008, 8:13 am
    Post #9 - April 25th, 2008, 8:13 am Post #9 - April 25th, 2008, 8:13 am
    My aunt and uncle were in last week and they just loved the food. They are the boring spaghetti and meatball types and were a little hesitant, but they were blown away. They were even impressed with the service. My uncle said the same thing about the lady with the baby, though he didn't know it was the chef's wife. He said there was a family who looked like they worked there who sat next to them and had baby gear all over the tables and invaded his space. Maybe that's how they do it in Italy. He wasn't happy about that, but he did make a big fuss about how well he was treated by his waitress and how she went out of her way to make sure there was something he would eat and that he was happy about it. That made for a good experience for them.
  • Post #10 - April 26th, 2008, 11:28 pm
    Post #10 - April 26th, 2008, 11:28 pm Post #10 - April 26th, 2008, 11:28 pm
    Lunch, as they say, is served. They started this week and had supremely high-quality dishes appearing with gracious ease, even with a 2/3 full room. I am also thrilled to report that they have fresh-squeezed lemonade, uncarbonated, strong, sour, and very lightly sweetened. Good enough to be worth a special trip, even at $3 per glass.

    Image

    In Defending Your Life (1991), Albert Brooks finds himself in a place between Heaven and perpetual reincarnation on Earth, a place which offers at least a taste of permanent bliss, primarily in the form of food. Nearly all of the key dialogue in this movie occurs over meals. I'm not the first here to employ this film as a culinary touchstone ("I'm-a gonna bring you nine pies!"), but a specific scene* has always tickled me: Brooks stops by an unassuming diner near his hotel, which is admittedly in the lower-rent area of this pleasant purgatory. He asks the waitress what's good from the pun-riddled menu:

    "So. What's good here?"

    "Everything we have is sensational."

    "How about a cheese omelette?"

    "Sensational."

    "I'll take it."

    After it's served to him, cooked to order and plated beautifully in about 30 seconds, a look and utterance of pure extasy ensue. "These are the best eggs I've ever had. Ever."

    I wonder if Gaetano Di Benedetto was hidden in that kitchen, since yesterday the jovial chef sent out what hands-down were the best eggs that either my wife or I have ever tasted. The $8 fritatta was enough food for about three people, with about ten peak-fresh eggs, sauteed zucchini, three kinds of mushrooms, yellow and red bell pepper, and a generous handful of whole pearl onions that must have been pre-boiled in a particularly rich stock, the whole lot laced with parmesan, and cooked to moist perfection in olive oil. The resulting cake was topped with a salad of bitter herbs, more shaved parmesan, and a drizzle of aged balsamic. This is the kind of humble, loving cooking that makes both chef and diners leave the restaurant better people, the very essence of what many of our GNRs and other tables around the country offer.

    Everything else became a delicious afterthought - a salad with dandelion greens, avocado, and squid seared with crushed fennel and red pepper, dressed in saba; hand-cut rigatoni in tomato-garlic cream sauce with chunks of snappy house-made Italian sausage, basil, and earthy porcini mushrooms; and the requisite drunken tiramisu in a flower pot, blanketed in bitter cocoa (the soil), graced by a yellow daisy.

    I was instantly charmed by the earth-toned and gold-leaf accented room, the warm, confident service, and the silhouette of our friend Gaetano in the kitchen. The tables in the front looking out onto the rapidly-greening Madison Street are drenched in glorious daylight for lunchtime (oh, for a camera yesterday). The pricepoints for the mid-day menu are almost sillily low, and the intimacy and freshness of the new space were irrepressible on this first visit. It reminds me of the best of La Piazza, with a tighter focus on seasonal cuisine, streamlined and served with humility and grace. Di Benedetto continues to provide what I consider the best Southern Italian in the city - handling some Northern and fusion touches equally well - and artfully bridging the gap between trattoria and ristorante.

    *viewable here, at about 3:30
    Last edited by Santander on May 18th, 2008, 6:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #11 - April 29th, 2008, 9:51 pm
    Post #11 - April 29th, 2008, 9:51 pm Post #11 - April 29th, 2008, 9:51 pm
    An unusually-soon repeat for me: we took four friends to Gaetano's tonight. Our 7:30 reservation for six was handled expertly, but the room was packed to the gills and there was a line of walk-ups from the street and up through the cramped entryway.

    Select plates were ridiculously good once again - beef carpaccio with citrus, capers, parmesan, and little bits of heirloom tomatoes; generous $6 chef salads with fried linguini topping; halibut croquettes with cilantro and cream; wood-fired beets with deep-fried goat cheese. My flatbread (focaccino) of fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, and thin-sliced pork loin was perfectly cooked, and could have been a home run (which the Cubs need tonight) with an acid component, like a drizzle of saba or some gremolata. I'll re-order it and remember to ask for something extra to brighten up the plate.

    Less successful were the butternut squash gnocchi, which were sublime at La Piazza, but not as pillowy or piquant here, or the wild boar, which while melt-in-your-mouth tender and rich, had been marinated in a marsala preparation with FAR too much salt, and there simply wasn't another element on the plate to offset that level of savory (they were also out of dough to continue to bring our their complimentary focaccia, the only bread available).

    Downright poor was the torta di cioccolata (a dry, crumbly mess with boring, one-note chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream), especially noticeable because the creme brulee and tiramisu are so consistently excellent.

    The place had started to clear by 9-ish, so I may try another 2- or 4-top at a later time early in the week, but I think the days of calm and quiet (the new space is very, very loud when full) for dinner may have fled. I'll continue to go for lunch, and perhaps either at the very start or very end of the night for Gaetano's tasting menu. I still urge anyone from the city to come out and give Di Benedetto a try - the dishes that hit are at or above the level of anything else around.
  • Post #12 - April 30th, 2008, 9:09 pm
    Post #12 - April 30th, 2008, 9:09 pm Post #12 - April 30th, 2008, 9:09 pm
    I enjoyed everything about my lunch today at Gaetano's, right down to the gorgeous stone tiling in the rustic and quaint mens room:

    Image


    There are so many things I want to try on the menu, but I'll be hard pressed not to order the carpaccio every single time I dine at Gaetano's. Super-thin sliced beef that's loaded with flavor, peppery arugula, green, earthy olive oil, lots of black pepper, and shaved, pungeant parmesan. Pure simplicity and pure deliciousness. Sounds like the preparation changed since Santander's last visit. I don't think they can improve on this one.

    And the best espresso I've had in a very long time.
  • Post #13 - April 30th, 2008, 11:51 pm
    Post #13 - April 30th, 2008, 11:51 pm Post #13 - April 30th, 2008, 11:51 pm
    Sounds like the preparation changed since Santander's last visit.


    Glad you made your way out, Kenny! We'll have to post another lunch event with some advance notice to snag a crowd of mouths and opinions.

    Gaetano always did very slightly different takes on the same menu items for lunch and dinner at La Piazza, and the trend seems to continue; I had the "dinner" carpaccio version last night, and it doesn't surprise me that the lunch version has a different spin. The lunch butternut squash gnocchi has a knob of gorgonzola and is meatless; the evening take has oven-roasted chicken breast. We also noticed different offerings in the rigatoni and flatbreads between lunch last week and dinner yesterday. I like how he mixes things up (though I would order that frittata morning, noon, and night).

    He is also a really nice and funny guy. His tasting menus really show off his creativity and lighter side, but in the new space, I can't picture diving in for one of those except very early or very late on an off-night when you could really get his full attention.
  • Post #14 - May 17th, 2008, 12:55 pm
    Post #14 - May 17th, 2008, 12:55 pm Post #14 - May 17th, 2008, 12:55 pm
    Howdy!
    Finally made it to Gaetano's last night after a few weeks of threatening to do it. Did not go with the Chef's Special four course meal, but ordered enough to sample at least some of the goods with the help of our cheery, and excellent server. Most everything was wonderful, or at least had a wonderful componenent in it.
    For apps:
    Grilled Eggplant with goat cheese.
    I LOVED this. it was simple, and nothing was overpowering. I could actually taste the creamy roasted eggplant through the rest of the flavors. I like simple things that let you taste each component of a dish. Sometimes, I think chefs try to do too much when they don't have to. This was a 9.5 out of ten for me. I think only a hint of acid would have helped it.

    Calamari fritti with asparagus and spicy mayo sauce. If you see this on the menu, and it is described as having a "tempura" batter. GET IT!! Nice big, fresh pieces of squid, absolutely impossibly encased in an uber crunchy batter. The crust was like a shell. No idea how they got these so crunchy. Not even a hint of greasyness. The squid inside was remarkably tender. Spicy mayo sauce was good. Nothing earth shattering.

    Wood fired Pizza with gorgonzola, caramelized onions, and escargot.
    Ok, I knew what they were going for here, but, as a whole, it was kind of a "miss" for me. The gorgonzola was pretty strong, and kind of took over the dish. The onions were way too juicy, and kind of sogged everything up. The outer crunchy crust parts of the pizza were extremely good, and the snails were scrumptious. Would be better with less soggy middle though. Might be different on a different night.

    Entrees:
    Gnocchi w/ chicken. Nice savory sauce on this. I think mainly a rosemary and garlic flavor. The gnocchi were pretty much stellar. Super light with a nice chew to them. Entire table remarked on how light these were.

    Veal scallopine. This was not a hit for me at all. I will never claim to have a great palate for Italian foods, and I won't say that this dish was "bad" in any way at all. It was just really boring to me. One note. Thin red sauce with a lot of garlic. Just kinda "ho-hum." It very well may have appeared this way because it was overshadowed by the rest of the food. This was the only plate that was not finished.

    Panko crusted Mahi Mahi. Good. simple. Well prepared. Decent portion.

    Desserts:
    Tiramisu. Stellar.
    Flourless chocolate cake / torte. Um, I've had better. Kinda just average.
    Creme Brulee with peaches. GET THIS IF YOU CAN. DEEE-LISH! This was not what I was expecting. it was kind of a layered napoleon consisting of super buttery phyllo with layers of creme brulee in between, and then topped off with a peachy sauce. YUM. YUM. YUM. GET THIS IF YOU CAN.

    This is some good eats here, but you already knew that.
    :D
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #15 - May 22nd, 2008, 3:05 pm
    Post #15 - May 22nd, 2008, 3:05 pm Post #15 - May 22nd, 2008, 3:05 pm
    The maiden lunch at Gaetano's today, and a fine experience. The carpaccio appetizer was light and satisyfing with the fresh arugula, shaved parmesan and drizzled oils. Shared the gnocchi (richly satisfying) and a "muffolato" tuna sandwich with potato salad (both superb - the thin and crispy bread surrounding tomatoes, capers, asparagus and delicate tuna, with the lemony tones accompanying in the salad). Crispy tomato bread served along side with what was clearly freshly made hummus. A comfortable room, good service, and frankly a fine value. Chef was engrossed in explaining dishes to patrons at bar, enjoying. Was also impressed that his kitchen was well-staffed with attentive focus, presumably also preparing for the dinner crowd. Will certainly return, and have to think this is in the top echelon of OP/RF restaurants. Three cheers.
  • Post #16 - May 22nd, 2008, 3:07 pm
    Post #16 - May 22nd, 2008, 3:07 pm Post #16 - May 22nd, 2008, 3:07 pm
    Make that OP/FP restaurants ... unless RF is hiding some somewhere.
  • Post #17 - July 28th, 2008, 5:00 pm
    Post #17 - July 28th, 2008, 5:00 pm Post #17 - July 28th, 2008, 5:00 pm
    We just can't get enough of this place! Every time we've dined, the chef comes out to talk to us and make sure our meal is satisfactory. The restaurant gets really busy during the weekend, but we managed to eat recently on a Wednesday when we could relax and take our time eating the various courses he served.

    Heard the chef is opening another place in the area soon - can't wait to see what that's going to be like.
  • Post #18 - August 6th, 2008, 2:57 pm
    Post #18 - August 6th, 2008, 2:57 pm Post #18 - August 6th, 2008, 2:57 pm
    This was a great meal - quick, not busy, chef on-site, reasonably priced for quality of food, and quite tasty. Kenny and I agreed that the tomato in the caprese underperformed for the high expectations of the summer season - it was underripe and served icy cold, although the flavor wasn't bad. But the consistently excellent and generously-portioned carpaccio and a succulent spaghetti bolognese held the table. Focaccia with white-bean puree and fresh lemonade rounded out the lunch. We look forward to getting something creative together here with a larger party soon.
  • Post #19 - August 6th, 2008, 4:23 pm
    Post #19 - August 6th, 2008, 4:23 pm Post #19 - August 6th, 2008, 4:23 pm
    Santander wrote:This was a great meal - quick, not busy, chef on-site, reasonably priced for quality of food, and quite tasty. Kenny and I agreed that the tomato in the caprese underperformed for the high expectations of the summer season - it was underripe and served icy cold, although the flavor wasn't bad. But the consistently excellent and generously-portioned carpaccio and a succulent spaghetti bolognese held the table. Focaccia with white-bean puree and fresh lemonade rounded out the lunch. We look forward to getting something creative together here with a larger party soon.


    Indeed, a quite enjoyable and reasonably priced meal, with the dishes above priced from $7 to $12 each. There are so many good-sounding things on the Gaetano's menu, that I am always torn between ordering the tried and true stuff vs. the new. I'm glad we did a little of both today. I wouldn't have wanted to miss the carpaccio, and was very happy to try the rich, complexly flavored Bolognese sauce. Gaetano is from the south, so perhaps it's understandable that his inauthentic version of the dish wouldn't be served anywhere near the real Bologna. I say who cares, because it was delicious. The flavor intensity came from what I'm sure was a low and slow simmer for a long time, and a much healthier dose of pancetta (or some other cured meat) than any other versions of this sauce that I've tried. In Bologna, this sauce would never be served with spaghetti - the theory being that more of it ends up at the bottom of the bowl than on the pasta. Wide, flat noodles or tubular shapes would be more authentic. And yes, it was true that after the pasta was gone, the bowl still had a healthy dose of the rich and meaty sauce. Nothing that a few pieces of delicious foccaccia couldn’t clean off the plate with ease.
    ...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 #20 - August 8th, 2008, 9:18 am
    Post #20 - August 8th, 2008, 9:18 am Post #20 - August 8th, 2008, 9:18 am
    Kennyz wrote:
    Santander wrote:This was a great meal - quick, not busy, chef on-site, reasonably priced for quality of food, and quite tasty. Kenny and I agreed that the tomato in the caprese underperformed for the high expectations of the summer season - it was underripe and served icy cold, although the flavor wasn't bad. But the consistently excellent and generously-portioned carpaccio and a succulent spaghetti bolognese held the table. Focaccia with white-bean puree and fresh lemonade rounded out the lunch. We look forward to getting something creative together here with a larger party soon.


    Indeed, a quite enjoyable and reasonably priced meal, with the dishes above priced from $7 to $12 each. There are so many good-sounding things on the Gaetano's menu, that I am always torn between ordering the tried and true stuff vs. the new. I'm glad we did a little of both today. I wouldn't have wanted to miss the carpaccio, and was very happy to try the rich, complexly flavored Bolognese sauce. Gaetano is from the south, so perhaps it's understandable that his inauthentic version of the dish wouldn't be served anywhere near the real Bologna. I say who cares, because it was delicious. The flavor intensity came from what I'm sure was a low and slow simmer for a long time, and a much healthier dose of pancetta (or some other cured meat) than any other versions of this sauce that I've tried. In Bologna, this sauce would never be served with spaghetti - the theory being that more of it ends up at the bottom of the bowl than on the pasta. Wide, flat noodles or tubular shapes would be more authentic. And yes, it was true that after the pasta was gone, the bowl still had a healthy dose of the rich and meaty sauce. Nothing that a few pieces of delicious foccaccia couldn’t clean off the plate with ease.



    Unfortunately, the prices previously listed are extremely misleading. Those are LUNCH prices - dinner is pricier.
  • Post #21 - August 8th, 2008, 9:35 am
    Post #21 - August 8th, 2008, 9:35 am Post #21 - August 8th, 2008, 9:35 am
    Lincoln,

    Certainly no intent to mislead. In fact, Santander's post to which I replied links to an event I planned that makes it clear that this was a lunchtime meal. Anyway, thanks for clarifying, in case you were not the only one that didn't read the post thoroughly.

    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 #22 - November 3rd, 2008, 9:29 am
    Post #22 - November 3rd, 2008, 9:29 am Post #22 - November 3rd, 2008, 9:29 am
    The set-up: Dinner with newphew and his new bride with them coming from out of town. Reservations at 9:30 on a Saturday night. Last member of our dinner party didn't arrive until almost 10p and the kitchen closes at 10:30p.
    The compliment: The food was excellent as always so I don't think I need to go there. What was OUTSTANDING was the service. We were there until about midnight, about an hour after everyone else had left. I don't know our servers name(she has waited on my wife and I in the past) but she was great. We were never rushed. Never a hint of "why don't you leave so we can finish our job and go home". The pacing of the meal was excellent. They didn't deliver the dishes all at once as a hint to eat and get out. A perfect evening at a restaurant. A tip of the hat to not only our server but to everyone on staff that evening for working later than normal.
    Thankyou!
  • Post #23 - November 10th, 2008, 1:24 pm
    Post #23 - November 10th, 2008, 1:24 pm Post #23 - November 10th, 2008, 1:24 pm
    Quick update - Gaetano's is now open on Mondays, and it will be 1/2 price on wine. That's good news. But lunches are gone, at least for now. See you on Mondays...........
  • Post #24 - December 26th, 2008, 10:04 pm
    Post #24 - December 26th, 2008, 10:04 pm Post #24 - December 26th, 2008, 10:04 pm
    I had my best Gaetano's meal yet tonight, though it was an unbelievably decadent follow-up to last night's most decadent home-cooked Christmas dinner. Sitting at the bar overlooking the great show in the kitchen, we shared a very well-paced three course meal, with one dish per 2 of us being more than enough for each course.

    First course: Formaggio fresco
    Homemade fresh cow's milk cheese, melted in the wood oven with roasted mushrooms, then topped with an over-easy fried egg, where the yolk melted into the dish to create creamy decadence, and the white crisped up nicely for textural contrast. This was a rich, satisfying start to the meal that could only be followed by...

    Second course: "Chef's delight" pasta.
    Short rigatoni-like noodles with nice chew to them, served with a simple-as-could-be, ridiculously decadent butter-cream sauce, and a motherload of black truffles which Gaetano shaved to order after he served the dish to us. Along with the truffle service came an amusing story about how Gaetano's 2 year old son recently learned how to open the refrigerator door at home. His first discovery after doing so: $400 worth of special black truffles which the 2-year old ate right upon discovery. Raising this child is going to be one expensive undertaking.

    Third course: Tonno all' aglio with milanese-style caponata.
    What a terrific dish, cooked in the hold-no-punches style that I really like from Gaetano. The many cloves of garlic were chopped and toasted just shy of overdone, lending the whole dish a perfect scent of sweet, almost candy-like garlic and a nice crunch. The very fresh, premium grade tuna was roasted to medium-rare in the wood oven, and the generous helping of caponata was a sweet, sour, super-intense burst of flavor.

    While eating all this wonderful stuff, we got to watch Gaetano display all of his many talents, from breaking down a whole fish in no time flat and pulling a sizzling plate of scallops out of the wood oven with his bare hands, to coaching and encouraging his dedicated staff and flirting with admiring patrons. Gaetano is one hell of a talented guy.
    ...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 #25 - December 26th, 2008, 10:07 pm
    Post #25 - December 26th, 2008, 10:07 pm Post #25 - December 26th, 2008, 10:07 pm
    Thanks, Kenny, for the report. My wife and I received a nice gift certificate for Gaetano's and are very much looking forward to our first meal there -- now more than ever -- thanks to your detailed account.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #26 - December 26th, 2008, 10:46 pm
    Post #26 - December 26th, 2008, 10:46 pm Post #26 - December 26th, 2008, 10:46 pm
    Kennyz wrote:Along with the truffle service came an amusing story about how Gaetano's 2 year old son recently learned how to open the refrigerator door at home. His first discovery after doing so: $400 worth of special black truffles which the 2-year old ate right upon discovery. Raising this child is going to be one expensive undertaking.


    I'm sending my kid to Gaetano's house as soon as he can walk.

    Thanks for the report, Kenny. I've not been to see Mr. DiBenedetto since November and hope to be back either this next week or first thing in the new year. The lightly-handled tuna you describe is exactly in keeping with his track record at both restaurants masterfully handling raw and gently cooked ingredients. The guy is like a sushi chef in a trattoria.
  • Post #27 - December 26th, 2008, 10:55 pm
    Post #27 - December 26th, 2008, 10:55 pm Post #27 - December 26th, 2008, 10:55 pm
    Santander wrote:The lightly-handled tuna you describe is exactly in keeping with his track record at both restaurants masterfully handling raw and gently cooked ingredients. The guy is like a sushi chef in a trattoria.


    Matt,

    Observing Gaetano at work, it was very clear that he trusts his talented cooks with a lot. But when it comes to seafood preparations, he holds the reins himself. Virtually all of the hands-on work we watched him do involved fish.

    We did see at least one family with small child happily in tow, so you'd probably be OK even if the babysitter is busy. Or invite Elizabeth and me to join and we (she) can keep an eye on little Santander.

    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 #28 - April 11th, 2009, 4:02 pm
    Post #28 - April 11th, 2009, 4:02 pm Post #28 - April 11th, 2009, 4:02 pm
    A couple of weeks ago my wife and I finally got a chance to use the gift certificate which I mentioned above and all I can say is WOW! It was one of those extraordinary meals about which I wanted to post immediately but due to a hectic schedule and spring break, I'm just getting to it now. But don't let the lag between the event and the post be an indication of anything other than my busy-ness. This was a phenomenal meal and a wonderfully personal and distinctive experience that I hope to enjoy again very soon.

    Gaetano's had been on our radar ever since we'd received the gc but the final impetus to actually go there was provided by none other than Natalie and Nick at Pasticceria Natalina. We'd stopped into their place and while chatting, they mentioned that they'd recently been to a place in Forest Park that had completely blown them away. Natalie started describing the meal and began to hand me a card from the restaurant. As she was doing so, I already had a hunch, from her description, that it was going to be Gaetano's and sure enough, we both blurted out the the name at the exact same moment. Needless to say, I greatly respect Natalie and Nick's palates and their mention of Gaetano's lit a short fuse under us. As luck would have it, we had a babysitter scheduled for the next night but no concrete plans. We called Gaetano's and asked if they had a couple of seats at the Chef's Bar for Saturday night. Happily, they did and even though we arrived to a full restaurant 30 minutes before our 7:30 pm reservation time (never easy to gauge traffic when traveling so far), our seats at the counter were open and we were led to them immediately.

    The unquestionable soul of Gaetano's is chef Gaetano Benedetto himself but the pumping heart of the restaurant is this amazing wood-burning oven, which was used for a wide variety of cooking tasks -- from salad components to desserts and everything in between . . .

    Image
    Gaetano's Wood-Burning Oven
    Embers are removed from the oven for a special risotto preparation called Risotto all'anatra e mirtilli. It contains wild mushrooms, fontina Valdostana, blueberry, Parmigiano and wood-oven-roasted duck. All the components are placed -- along with a cup of the burning embers -- into a large piece of foil that's folded up into the form of a duck and delivered to the table. We didn't order this but next time for sure! However, everything we did eat was delicious -- there wasn't a single course that I wouldn't happily order again (in this instance we ordered the Chef's Choice and let chef do his thing). As I mentioned, it's been a couple of weeks and while I do have menus and notes (and some lasting memories), I'm not sure that the descriptions of what follows are 100% accurate. I did my best to remember all the details but I'd be shocked if I didn't miss a detail or 2. Also, I get the strong impression that chef is more committed to using the best available ingredients than he is to blindly adhering to his menu (as it's written), so there were probably some changes over what was printed on the menus . . .


    Image
    Chickpea and Garlic Dip
    This savory dip is served instead of butter or olive oil.


    Image
    Bread


    Image
    Carpaccio di Barbabietole
    Beets roasted in the wood-burning oven, sliced carpaccio-style and drizzled with champagne vinaigrette. Served with fried goat cheese.


    Image
    Datteri con Polpettina e Pancetta al Pomodoro
    Dried dates stuffed with ground beef and pork, accented with chorizo, wrapped in pancetta and sauteed with tomato-coconut sauce.


    Image
    Cannolo di Pane con Pollo
    Chicken breast salad served in a cannolo al Parmagiano over tuna sauce and a gastrique of chiles.


    Image
    Poached Pear Salad with Greens and Roasted Walnut Dressing


    Image
    Raw Escolar with Burrata and Blueberry in Sesame Sauce
    A fresh and delicious one-biter. I could have used a straw for that sauce, though. :wink:


    Image
    Tortino di Granchio alla Siciliana
    Crab cake topped with roasted red peppers and mozzarella, then baked and served with spicy Drago sauce.


    Image
    Calamari Fritti stuffed with Asparagus
    This is kind of a stylized play on maki, served with several sauces.


    Image
    Fiori di Zucca al Drago
    Zucchini Blossom stuffed with pecorino cheese mousse and fried tempura-style. Served over Drago sauce.


    Image
    Gnocchi with Pork Ragout
    These gnocchi were as good as I've ever had.


    Image
    Chef Gaetano's Delight
    Cannolicchi pasta tossed with butter and Parmagiano, topped with fresh black truffles, shaved tableside. Here, our server Wendy shaves the truffles for us.


    Image
    Chef Gaetano's Delight
    As served


    Image
    Risotto ai Frutti di Mare
    Organic, aged Carnarole rice with calamari, mussels and shrimp. All 3 pastas were not only well-conceived but expertly executed and utterly delicious.


    Image
    Arrosto di Maiale alla Romana
    Organic pork loin, wood-oven roasted and served over mashed potatoes and romana sauce, accented with pancetta, garlic and rosemary.
    Tremendous flavors and textures. I loved the balance here. At first I was nervous about mashed potatoes this late in the meal but the portion was extremely reasonable in size and not overly filling. When the ingredients and preparation are this excellent, a little goes a long way in the satisfaction department.


    Image
    Pesce Limone al Burro di Tartufo
    Cobia (aka lemon fish) filet topped with truffle butter, baked and served with wild mushrooms. Here, chef Gaetano shaves the fresh black truffles over the dish.


    Image
    Pesce Limone al Burro di Tartufo
    Next, chef Gaetano finishes the dish with a few drops of truffle-infused pumpkin seed oil.


    Image
    Pesce Limone al Burro di Tartufo
    Again, an incredible dish and a perfect portion size. Near the end, we were torn between being too full and wanting to experience more of chef Gaetano's creations. I think he paced us magnificently, though, allowing us to experience so many of his dishes without being uncomfortably full at the end of our meal.


    Image
    House-made Limoncello
    Before dessert, we were offered some of this delectable nectar. Notice the giant hunk of ice into which the bottle is frozen. This was one of the best limoncellos I've ever tasted -- intense but nicely balanced between sweet and tart.


    Image
    Panna Cotta, Deconstructed Key Lime Pie, Tiramisu
    On the right, a couple of bites of tender panna cotta, topped with lemon, that were drizzled with olive oil, at the table. To the left, in the parchment vessel, is the creamy, sweet-tart key lime pie filling and fried pasta 'chips' that have been dusted with confectioner's sugar. At the back of the plate in the flower pot is the rich and intense tiramisu.

    I can't say enough about this gem, how much I loved our meal and how eager I am to return to Gaetano's. If you appreciate the chef as auteur concept, dining at Gaetano's and sitting at the counter would be a definite treat for you. But even at one of the tables in the dining room away from the counter, the great ingredients, cooking and service would easily come shining through. This is one of those truly distinctive places where you're going to get a fantastic meal that would be absolutely impossible to find anywhere else. Chef's personal vision is evident in every aspect of the place -- right down to the way the staff interacts with each other when customers are not part of the equation. You simply cannot run a place like this if the staff isn't fully on board and committed to carrying out chef's mission. Here, all the pieces flow together in perfect harmony with chef Gaetano -- the maestro -- conducting the orchestra with his natural, easy skill.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #29 - April 11th, 2009, 5:06 pm
    Post #29 - April 11th, 2009, 5:06 pm Post #29 - April 11th, 2009, 5:06 pm
    Ronnie,

    Holy crap, that looks like one hell of a meal. Almost all of it screams to me, but the delicately handles fried squash blossoms take the picturesque prize. As is clear in this trhead, I'm a big Gaetano's fan, but it's been a few months since my last visit. The next one is coming very soon!

    Thanks for the post!

    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 #30 - April 11th, 2009, 5:07 pm
    Post #30 - April 11th, 2009, 5:07 pm Post #30 - April 11th, 2009, 5:07 pm
    Glad you enjoyed Gaetano's, Ronnie.

    Sorry that Kenny and I lacked either the cuteness or pastry clout of N&N to push you over the edge sooner!

    Many of the dishes you experienced he perfected at La Piazza, but his cuisine has only gotten simpler, more focused, and more delicious in the new space.

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