Sunday, February 7, 2016

Piccolo Sogno - Restaurant Week

I've mentioned before that while I really like Italian food, I don't eat it often (other than pizza, which doesn't really count) because, to me, it feels like something that you eat with family or a group of friends.  Having said that, there are a few Italian places that I feel that I need to go to whether I have a dining companion or not.  Piccolo Sogno (Little Dream) is one of these restaurants.  While it has been on my radar for years, and I have actually made reservations several times (mostly during restaurant week), I have never gone because I couldn't coordinate my schedule with someone else.  I decided this year that even if I couldn't coordinate with someone, it is a place that I wanted to visit and I would go whether or not I had a dining partner.  I have had samples of the food prepared at Piccolo Sogno at various benefits and festivals, I had never actually dined at the restaurant itself.  Chef/Owner Tony Priolo was raised in Chicago and had established himself as a great chef (at Coco Pazzo) before he opened Piccolo Sogno eight years ago.  The building in which Piccolo Sogno is located has actually been a restaurant as long as I have been in Chicago.  I first remember it as Thyme, a French bistro-style restaurant which switched to Italian and Timo before becoming Piccolo Sogno.  The building is a large old brick building in River West.  The entrance is on the side of the building off of a small parking lot and you enter into the lounge area.  There are three dining rooms inside, I think I was in the largest one, which seats about 70 with 2 tops and round 4 tops.  There is also apparently a fantastic courtyard that is open in the summer, but I obviously didn't see that.  The walls were dark blue (not quite navy blue) with light ceilings and dim lighting that was slightly augmented with candles at the tables.  The passageways between rooms are arched.  When I was seated, I was offered still or sparkling water and was presented with three menus:  the Chicago Restaurant Week Prix Fixe menu, the regular dinner menu, and the wine menu which was a pretty sizeable book of Italian wines.  I asked for still water, ordered a nice Rose from Tuscany and started perusing the menu.  While I was looking, I was presented with the bread basket.  It contained bread sticks and two different loafs with some olive oil at the table for dipping.  The bread had a nice crust and soft interior as good bread is supposed to be. 
While there were many good things on the regular menu, I decided to go with the Restaurant Week Prix Fixe and started with the Coda di Vaccinara, Roman-Style Braised Ox Tail braised with Carrots, Celery, and Onions.  I had had ox tail before and while it tastes good, it can be messy and a lot of work to get the meat off of the tail bone.  This ox tail had the potential of being very messy as well because it was very juicy with a lot of sauce.  There was sufficient meat though, to make it easy to peel it off of the bone.  It was very tender and flavorful and with the carrots, celery, and onions, it reminded me of a very good and flavorful stew.

For my entree, I went with some housemade pasta, Tagliatelle served with a Ragu Sauce, specifically I had a Tagliatelle con Cinghiale (Wild Boar Ragu) which was topped with Parmigiana at the table.  This was pretty amazing.  The Tagliatelle was a perfect al dente, the ragu was more meat than sauce, and my server was very generous with the Parmigiana.  Wild boar has a flavor similar to farm raised pork although the flavor is a little stronger.  The tagliatelle was long and strong so each bite was a great bite of pork and pasta with a generous helping of Parmigiana.
For my dessert, I went with a Tavoletta, layers of Chocolate and Pistachio Mousse on a Dark  Chocolate Crust served with Pistachios and Amarena Cherries and garnished with Chocolate Sauce and Powdered Sugar.  It was a sweet, rich, and nutty, with a little tartness provided by the cherries.  It was also a very good finish to a very good restaurant.  While I still think of Italian restaurants as a family/group thing, I am glad I came out and finally got to try the restaurant.

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