Saturday, October 4, 2014


I mentioned the Sheerin Brothers previously by reputation, if not explicitly by name (Mike and Pat).  The two of them have helmed several high profile restaurants including Blackbird, The Signature Room, Three Floyd's Brew Pub, and opened Trenchermen together.  Mike later left to open Cicchetti, an Italian small plates place.  I have really liked the restaurants run by both Sheerin Brothers, so i had much confidence in this place.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I decided to dine there on Mike Sheerin's reported last day.  I did not know that it was Chef Sheerin's last day until after I had dined there, and it really shouldn't matter as the staff and menu should be the same until the new chef has some time to put his stamp on the restaurant (besides the fact that an Executive Chef rarely cooks).  The space is located in the new Northwestern Hospital building in Streeterville and has a very open footprint.  It has a nice patio, but it was a bit chilly when I went there, so I dined indoors.  The outer walls of the space are windows, so the only thing that you are missing by sitting indoors is the weather.  Despite the modern window walls, the space had wooden pillars and floors and a very rustic look.  Even with an open space, the dining area was divided into three rooms, the front room contained the entrance, several tables, and a large and long bar.  The middle space, where I was seated, had seating for about 40 people and an open kitchen.  The rear dining area was the largest.  All of the spaces had a high, unfinished ceiling with hanging lights.  The menu at Cicchetti is roughly divided into two sections.  The first section is Cicchetti, Italian for snacks (and very similar to Spanash Tapas) where you will find things such as meatballs, bruschetta, cheese, sardines, and beef carpaccio, which was what I ordered.  It was an Aged Hanger Steak Carpaccio which was served with Crispy Cauliflower (dried), Fennel, and Raisin Caper Aioli.  The presentation of this very much reminded me of fall with the fennel leaves and dried cauliflower.  Unfortunately, while the cauliflower tasted good, the texture also reminded me of eating dried leaves.  The carpaccio itself was paper thin and very tender and the raisin caper aioli had the right amount of sweetness and sour.  Were it not for the textural issue of the cauliflower, this would have been a great dish.
The rest of the menu was divided into salads, soups, vegetarian, pasta, and meat and fish.  I my mind salads, soups, and appetizers occupy the same space in a meal, so unless it's a multi-course meal, I will usually only order one of these.  As I had what was essentially an appetizer, I went for the pasta.  I ordered the Corn Fettucine which was served with Smoked Pink Shrimp, Black Pepper, Pepita Crumble, Broccoli, and Corn Cream Sauce.  Every element of this dish was done right and cooked perfectly.  The shrimp was sweet and tender with a little smokiness.  The Fettucine was al dente.  The pepita crumble added some crunch and a little nuttiness.  The broccoli was tender, the black pepper added some bite, and the corn cream sauce was creamy with a lot of corn flavor.  It was a very good dish but it might have been better with a little counterpoint like an acid or something like that.
For my Secondi (main course), I ordered the Duck, which was served Two Ways, Breast and Sausage.  With the duck came three types of Cauliflower, Purple, White, and Romanesco. and over everything was poured a Duck Jus.  The cauliflower was tender, crisp and good tasting, but while there were examples of all three varieties in the dish, it was mostly white.  The breast was tender and flavorful, but the sausage had a stronger flavor which really shouldn't be a surprise.  It was also nicely peppery and the jus added a nice duck flavor to everything.
After my Secondi but before my Dolce, I was brought an after dinner shot of Limoncello.  I didn't order it, it was on the house, and I wasn't complaining.  I like Limoncello.  It was served very cold and was very thick and sour with a sweet finish and it was a very nice opening for the sweets that are dessert.

There were many things on the menu that interested me a lot.  They did have some of the usual suspects:  gelato, sorbet, a cannoli, and cheese, but surprisingly, no tiramisu (as such).  What I ordered sounded positively sinful and the presentation confirmed it.  It was called the Cicchetti Sundae and it had Tiramisu Gelato, Fernet Branca Menta Fudge (Fernet Branca is a potable amaro bitter, menta means mint, so what this was was Bitter Mint Hot Fudge), Pistachio Brittle and Amarena Cherries with the Housemade Whipped Cream to top things off.  This was ridiculous and ridiculously good.  It was sweet with bitter from the fudge the gelato, and the cherries, with a nice crunch from the pistachio brittle and the mint flavor to counter things.

I really want to like Cicchetti.  The space was both modern and rustic, the staff was friendly and helpful, and the food, while not great in every aspect, was good.  I do imagine that the new chef, who was part of the team that opened Cicchetti, will put more of his own spin on things as time goes on and that, in and of itself, makes it worth another look.    

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