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Tufano's with a side of LTH
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  • Tufano's with a side of LTH

    Post #1 - September 11th, 2005, 9:49 am
    Post #1 - September 11th, 2005, 9:49 am Post #1 - September 11th, 2005, 9:49 am
    LTH,

    My brother and one of his daughters are in town and, not unlike me and his home city of San Francisco, where Swan Oyster Depot and Ton Kiang are mandatory, we went to his two Chicago favorites, 'Little' Three Happiness and Tufano's. My brother loves chicken, be it Salt Baked at Ton Kiang, Lemon at Tufano's or Crispy Skin at LTH, and both LTH and Tufano's were dead-on delicious subsequent nights.

    Friday at LTH Crispy Skin Chicken was plump, moist, crisp, perfectly complimented by lemon quarters and 5-spice accented dredging salt. Not to mention salt and pepper shell/head-on shrimp, dry stir fry crab, rice noodle so crisp the sound, as you bit in, was like a glass rod breaking, and a multitude of other dishes, including a very good version of seafood fried rice my 13-year-old niece requested.

    My brother, who feels about Ton Kiang the same way the Zurer family feels about Full Kee, and me about LTH, paid 'Little' Three Happiness the highest compliment. When asked by his daughter which he preferred he said both equally, though he may have been in crispy skin chicken afterglow at the time.

    Saturday Tufano's Lemon Chicken, crisp, with portions slightly charred, juicy, swimming, along with extra crisp cottage fries, in a pool of olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, with the potatoes on the bottom soaking up the olive oil and chicken juices, was perfect. We started with antipasto salad, which was a fine counterpoint to the crisp, greaseless, tender calamari and an order of steamed clams in red sauce, though the tomato sauce was a bit blah.

    Ellen had veal w/fresh mushrooms, which was fine, nothing earth shattering, but tender veal and a multitude of mushrooms, and my niece a simple dish of shells w/butter to which she liberally applied Parmesan. My brother and I split a lemon chicken which was so delicious we ordered another. :) Add to this warm bread with Tufano's table giardiniera and you have a deliciously over the top pure Chicago experience.

    As an aside, I've come to the conclusion I am (most) always dissatisfied when ordering Chicken Vesuvio as I compare it, unfairly, to Tufano's terrific lemon chicken.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Tufano's Vernon Park Tap
    1073 W. Vernon Park Pl.
    Chicago, IL
    312-733-3393

    'Little' Three Happiness
    209 W Cermak
    Chicago, IL

    Swan Oyster Depot
    1517 Polk St
    San Francisco, CA 94109
    415-673-1101

    Ton Kiang Restaurant
    5821 Geary Blvd
    San Francisco, CA 94121
    415-752-4440
    http://www.tonkiang.net/
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #2 - September 11th, 2005, 10:10 am
    Post #2 - September 11th, 2005, 10:10 am Post #2 - September 11th, 2005, 10:10 am
    Gary:

    I've been to Tufano's just once for a post-hockey game meal with a couple of my teammates. We had the antipasto salad, fried calamari, lemon chicken and (not at my insistence!) an order of maccheroni with tomato sauce. The salad and antipasto were really most enjoyable and the lemon chicken -- aside from a little excess charring of chicken and crisping of potatoes -- was most satisfying. Alas, much as I had expected, the maccheroni itself had been pre-cooked and arrived in that sad, lifeless state that one all too often encounters in restaurants; in addition, I thought the sauce too garlicky and otherwise not all that interesting. But between the three of four dishes that were good and the very particular and pleasant atmosphere of the place, I definitely enjoyed myself and would certainly be willing to go back for a similar meal, though were I to try the pasta again, I would opt for something involving either fresh pasta or a baked preparation.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #3 - September 11th, 2005, 10:13 am
    Post #3 - September 11th, 2005, 10:13 am Post #3 - September 11th, 2005, 10:13 am
    Antonius,

    When you go back. Take a look around you. You probably won't see that many tables ordering pasta (at least not the tables of the non-tourists). Lemon chicken is the reason to go to Tufano's.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #4 - September 11th, 2005, 10:44 am
    Post #4 - September 11th, 2005, 10:44 am Post #4 - September 11th, 2005, 10:44 am
    stevez wrote:When you go back. Take a look around you. You probably won't see that many tables ordering pasta (at least not the tables of the non-tourists). Lemon chicken is the reason to go to Tufano's.


    Steve,

    You may very well be right but the one time I was there I did see a number of people eating pasta, including some of a large group at a neighbouring table that seemed to know the waitress pretty well, and my companions were natives and regulars, one of whom insisted on the pasta being ordered at our table. Be that as it may, the look of the (dried) pasta, limp and colourless, was enough to make it clear to me that I wouldn't be happy ordering it (though note, I'm picky in this regard and I don't want to harp on one negative amidst a bunch of positives).

    But a worthwhile question is, I think, how is the fresh pasta? If it's good, then there's a further option for a group with some who are looking for the chicken and others who are looking for something else.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #5 - September 11th, 2005, 12:53 pm
    Post #5 - September 11th, 2005, 12:53 pm Post #5 - September 11th, 2005, 12:53 pm
    Antonius wrote:
    But a worthwhile question is, I think, how is the fresh pasta? If it's good, then there's a further option for a group with some who are looking for the chicken and others who are looking for something else.

    Antonius


    That is a question I can't answer. It's been a while since my last visit to Tufano's, but I seem to remember getting some fine tasting rapinni to go along side the chicken. Other than that, I can't say that I have ever tried anyting else at Tufanno's. Maybe there has been a perfect plate of fresh pasta right under my nose all these years, although I'd be somewhat surprised. I wonder if anyone else here has delved into Tufano's pasta side and can shed some light.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #6 - September 11th, 2005, 2:21 pm
    Post #6 - September 11th, 2005, 2:21 pm Post #6 - September 11th, 2005, 2:21 pm
    stevez wrote:Antonius,

    When you go back. Take a look around you. You probably won't see that many tables ordering pasta (at least not the tables of the non-tourists). Lemon chicken is the reason to go to Tufano's.


    When the VI family goes, we almost always get a plate of "worms" cavatelli, a thick, very Chicago, form of house-made, Southern Italy in orgin, pasta (in red sauce of course!). Ok, it is not the greates pasta in the world, but it is, for instance, much better than anything at Osteria via Stato that I had. I've said this before, but Tufano's in its way, can serve a very classic or authentic if you will Italian type of meal.

    First, fried calamari, a more than passable version.

    Then, the antipasto salad, a bit over-dressed I find, but again more than passable.

    Third, the worms. Another good pasta choice is the shells with brocolli.

    Finally, the lemon chicken with the crisp potatoes.

    And, obviously, a trip to Mario (if in season) if possible--try the tutti fruit by the way, it's become my go to at Mario's.

    Now, aside from the lemon chicken, nothing at Tufano's is best in class. Yet in total, I find the experience fantastic. A sum really greater than its parts, and, I would say, the best of its kind in this genre.

    Rob
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #7 - September 11th, 2005, 2:37 pm
    Post #7 - September 11th, 2005, 2:37 pm Post #7 - September 11th, 2005, 2:37 pm
    Interesting that Ellen had a good mushroom experience at Tufano's. i once ordered Veal Marsala which came swimming in canned mushrooms. I simply wrote it off as the menu item not to order there in the future.
  • Post #8 - September 11th, 2005, 4:03 pm
    Post #8 - September 11th, 2005, 4:03 pm Post #8 - September 11th, 2005, 4:03 pm
    Hail, Hail, the returning, conquering hero, Antonius!!!

    Congrats, A, on winning the award and showing those Brits what Italian-American-Mediterranean food scholarship is all about!! How are you going to spend the prize money? Is your paper going to be made available for public consumption? I hope so. Way to go. You know, all of this talk about academia and Italian food reminds me of a Woody Allen piece which appears in the compendium Side Effects. "Fabrizio's: Criticism and Response" should be required reading for anyone on LTH, especially given the academic bent the board has taken on of late. Some choice quotes:

    "...but Jacobelli is an extremist ... Who can forget his scampi: four garlic-drenched shrimp arranged in a way that says more about our involvement in Vietnam than countless books on the subject?"

    "Fabrizio's prices, as Hannah Arendt told me once, are 'reasonable without being historically inevitable.' I agree."

    Great stuff...

    Anyway, from Oxbridge to Bridgeport, it looks like Antonius is King of the Mountain. We should all be honored to know and read him (or, in some cases, share a bed with the guy... I dunno, that beard would start to itch me after a while, but maybe it's good for finding bits of ricotta salata and zucchini flowers as little surprises during the day...) Con amore e ammirazione...

    Reb
    Last edited by hungryrabbi on September 11th, 2005, 8:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #9 - September 11th, 2005, 4:55 pm
    Post #9 - September 11th, 2005, 4:55 pm Post #9 - September 11th, 2005, 4:55 pm
    a thick, very Chicago, form of house-made,


    Shouldn't that be "three-flat-made" then?
    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 #10 - September 11th, 2005, 5:38 pm
    Post #10 - September 11th, 2005, 5:38 pm Post #10 - September 11th, 2005, 5:38 pm
    hungryrabbi wrote:(or, in some cases, share a bed with the guy...


    CaseS ?? :shock: What's that plural doing in there, Rebbe?

    And when are you going to start a thread on Las Vegas? :)

    Amata
  • Post #11 - September 11th, 2005, 7:33 pm
    Post #11 - September 11th, 2005, 7:33 pm Post #11 - September 11th, 2005, 7:33 pm
    Amata wrote:
    hungryrabbi wrote:(or, in some cases, share a bed with the guy...


    CaseS ?? :shock: What's that plural doing in there, Rebbe?

    And when are you going to start a thread on Las Vegas? :)

    Amata


    Yes, Amata, the truth finally comes out... one night, after some rounds at Laschet's and some incredibly steamy discussion about consonant shifts within regional variants of Plattdeutsch and the starting line of the original New Jersey Devils, Antonius and I...well... that fiery Latinate blood, what can I say? Irresistible. The thread on Vegas (or at least what I've discovered here re: food, which is substantial but still just the tip of the iceberg), will be presented as soon as I get that digital camera I've been promising myself for the last 2 years. Lucky for me, it looks like all I have to do is sit like a jackass zombie with a card plugged into a slot machine for 45 hours and feed it nickels to earn enough points for a nice, sexy little 3.0 Megapixel number. Of course, it's not a name brand (but not quite as low as the Canal St/Maxwell St knock-offs such as Parasonic or Soney) but it's probably made on the same assembly line by the same 10 year old Malaysian girl that makes the fancy models anyway. God Bless America - - be sure to wave that flag made in China and show the yellow ribbon which will never bio-degrade (and that's made in China). Later,

    Reb
  • Post #12 - September 12th, 2005, 8:09 am
    Post #12 - September 12th, 2005, 8:09 am Post #12 - September 12th, 2005, 8:09 am
    Antonius wrote:The salad and antipasto were really most enjoyable and the lemon chicken -- aside from a little excess charring of chicken and crisping of potatoes -- was most satisfying.

    Antonious,

    Lightly charred chicken skin and extra crisp potatoes are part of the appeal I find in Tufano's lemon chicken. I also like to eke a little juice from the charred lemon halves on the plate. I really should have brought my camera to Tufano's, I just realized I don't have any pics from there.

    Antonius wrote:Alas, much as I had expected, the maccheroni itself had been pre-cooked and arrived in that sad, lifeless state that one all too often encounters in restaurants

    I had a couple of my niece's shells and the first thing I noted was the texture, which had a nice core of resistance, not over done in the least. Shells with broccoli is a standard, and typically quite good, and Ellen often orders pasta dishes, she especially likes mussels w/capellini and light tomato sauce, which I'm guessing is not on the Antonious approved list of pasta preparations. :)

    If you distill my enjoyment of Tufano's down to the bare essence, it's all about the lemon chicken, long as they keep making lemon chicken I'll keep going to Tufano's.

    By the way, nice to have you back, how was England? Let's have a Sophie Coe Prize celebratory pint or 4 at Laschet's one of these days soon.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #13 - September 12th, 2005, 9:03 am
    Post #13 - September 12th, 2005, 9:03 am Post #13 - September 12th, 2005, 9:03 am
    Tufano's has been a favorite of mine for many years and I can't recall a bad meal, until a week ago. I've never thought the food "great", but it's been good, portions are large and prices are reasonable.

    Three of us went on Labor Day evening, and the place was almost empty (7:30 p.m.). The Tufano salad has always been a favorite, and it might be a meal in itself for many people. I ordered Chicken Piccata - and the selection turned out to be a mistake. I usually order veal, or pasta (angel hair with mussels is a favorite of mine there), but, for whatever reason, it was to be chicken this night. The chicken was like shoe leather, and the taste was probably the same.

    The bad meal won't cause me to stop going to Tufano's, but I will be more careful when I order in the future. Labor Day was probably not a good day to go there, either. There were few items on the blackboard, relative to the large number of offerings each of the other times I've been there.

    One of the lures of Tufano's is that the place is almost always packed to the rafters at dinnertime. It's a loud, boisterous crowd and the hustle and bustle adds a level of excitement that's contageous - and that excitement can, I think, often cause diners to overlook imperfections in the operation. On the other hand, the excitement is one of the things that keeps bringing people back.

    Later in the week, on Thursday, I ate at Bertucci's in Chinatown. I place the restaurant in the same category as Tufano's - a "neighborhood" Italian restaurant that's been in business many years (although, it's not "family run" like Tufano's has been all these many years). Actually, I prefer the food at Bertucci's. My meal of choice at Bertucci's is Veal Piccata - it's so tender it melts in your mouth. Meals come with soup or salad and a side of mostacholi with a red gravy that's a bit sweet. I have the chef add some capers to the dish (veal). You can eat in the bar or in a rear dining room - I prefer the bar area. There's a printed menu and daily specials on the board. Friends I go with like the place because there always seem to be frog legs on the special, daily menu (not something I eat, however). Another thing I like about Bertucci's is the house red wine - Fortissimo. You don't see Fortissimo (from CK Mondavi) much anymore. I consider it the commercially produced wine most similar to home-made Italian wine I've tasted.

    Bertucci's
    300 W 24th St. (at Princeton, 1 long block W. of Wentworth)
    Chicago, IL 60616
    (312) 225-2848
  • Post #14 - September 12th, 2005, 9:37 am
    Post #14 - September 12th, 2005, 9:37 am Post #14 - September 12th, 2005, 9:37 am
    Antonius wrote:The salad and antipasto were really most enjoyable and the lemon chicken -- aside from a little excess charring of chicken and [excess]crisping of potatoes -- was most satisfying.


    G Wiv wrote:Lightly charred chicken skin and extra crisp potatoes are part of the appeal I find in Tufano's lemon chicken.


    Yes, I understand some is part of the dish (again, this is a variant of a standard Southern Italian approach to chicken) but excessive charring and excessive crisping (i.e. to the point of rendering some pieces, in effect, weirdly thick, jaw-breaking potato chips) is surely not what they intend to do. I think that my serving just got left a little too long under the broiler late in the course of what had likely been a very busy Saturday evening.

    So then, I enjoyed the dish a lot but am also sure that the degree of charring that affected some spots went a bit beyond not just what I like but likely also beyond what they really intend. A minor observation regarding a dish I otherwise enjoyed.

    Antonius wrote:Alas, much as I had expected, the maccheroni itself had been pre-cooked and arrived in that sad, lifeless state that one all too often encounters in restaurants


    I had a couple of my niece's shells and the first thing I noted was the texture, which had a nice core of resistance, not over done in the least. Shells with broccoli is a standard, and typically quite good, and Ellen often orders pasta dishes, she especially likes mussels w/capellini and light tomato sauce, which I'm guessing is not on the Antonious approved list of pasta preparations. :)


    Perhaps they were suffering late night fatigue but I'm certain the pasta and been precooked and finished when the order came in; this method is, in my opinion, an inevitable path to a less than optimal final result and in the specific instance I experienced, the pasta was thoroughly cooked through.

    Mussels with capellini could work for me but the capellini require tremendous care in cooking, lest they (as seems to be all but inevitable in restaurants) they end up overcooked. I should add too that I'm pretty picky about the quality of mussels (just had some great ones in Belgium, among the first of the new season). If they don't precook or overcook the capellini and are careful with the quality of the mussels, this sounds like a dish I might want to try if and when I next go there.

    If you distill my enjoyment of Tufano's down to the bare essence, it's all about the lemon chicken, long as they keep making lemon chicken I'll keep going to Tufano's.


    Well, maybe I'm being overly defensive but I think my main point about liking the place on account of 1) the salad; 2) the calamari; 3) the lemon chicken, and finding only the pasta uninteresting (something which surprised me not in the least) has been misread as an overall negative judgement. I don't expect to be terribly happy with pasta made in anything less than exceptional Italian restaurants in this country and so hardly ever order it. I only got a chance to try it on account of one of our group having ordered it.

    But again, my main point in this thread is that I enjoyed my visit to Tufano's thoroughly for reasons regarding both food and 'ambiance'.

    By the way, nice to have you back, how was England? Let's have a Sophie Coe Prize celebratory pint or 4 at Laschet's one of these days soon.


    Thanks! It was swell in all ways. :D I hope to post on a few of the refreshments taken in while 'over there'.

    And I'd love to get together at Laschet's...

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #15 - September 12th, 2005, 12:14 pm
    Post #15 - September 12th, 2005, 12:14 pm Post #15 - September 12th, 2005, 12:14 pm
    The extra crisp potato chips or cottege fries are the best ones on the plate IMHO. As to the chicken piccatta, it is potentially the best item on the menu. I rarely order boneless chicken breast of any type except at Tufano's. C P has always been perfestly cooked and thus full of juice, light pan sauce with properly toasted pignoli. Simple yet great.

    Other outstanding options include Egplant Parm-- better than my grandmother's-
    Pork chops and pepers with those great cottage fries(Have them skip the canned peas) and Shells with the Baccala gravy(friday only)pedestrian shells with a chunky tomato sauce with garlic, vineger pepers. capers and black olives. Most people have it with the dried salt cod, but that product is not my favorite,

    Joey D, the Judys, Petey, Rudy and the rest of the gang make it seem like you are in ther home.
  • Post #16 - February 9th, 2006, 1:02 pm
    Post #16 - February 9th, 2006, 1:02 pm Post #16 - February 9th, 2006, 1:02 pm
    I really love the atmosphere of Tufano's, but got to report:
    Had the Chicken Parm and while the chicken itself was good, the "cheese" was a small, thin square that looked dead-on like processed cheese food and didn't taste much better. And the cheese kept sliding around like an air-hockey puck. "four inches by four inches: NO MORE." Accompanied by what looked like three carefully measured tablespoons of sauce. Not at all in the spirit of good chicken parm in Chicago. And I'm not a fan of the vaunted lemon chicken. This is basically a variation of Vesuvio, so the potato chips don't cut it, especially when they are way overdone or perhaps from yesterday.

    But I like the place only as long as I can really pick only the entrees I know. Pasta ain't bad. But this is a "pick-your-spots" place, for sure.
  • Post #17 - June 21st, 2022, 6:16 am
    Post #17 - June 21st, 2022, 6:16 am Post #17 - June 21st, 2022, 6:16 am
    Tufanos with the bride and brother Lory, who was in Chicago for a conference. Glorious company, wonderful food, old school rule. Lemon Chicken, never changes, always makes me happy and is a dish Lory requests every time he is in Chicago.

    click to enlarge
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    Tufano's, count me a Fan!
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow

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