Friday, September 2, 2016

Postcards from Bunny: Dinner at Macello Ristorante and Pizzeria

Summer was taking one of its last breaths of the year when Bunny arrived in Chicago one evening for a brief layover between flights from Saint Thomas and Caracas.  "Everybody seems to already have plans for the evening," she grumbled, checking messages on her phone, "Oh well.  Perhaps its time for a date night with myself!"

She'd been craving Italian food since a brief stop in Milan a few months previous, so she chose to visit Macello in the West Loop.  Situated a little father west than most of the other trendy West Loop bastions, Macello featured a small deli at the front, a beautiful dining room just beyond the entrance, and a patio out back.

Bunny was struck first by the beautiful light streaming into the dining room via the triangular skylights over head.  At the back of the space, the open kitchen and wood fire oven added a warmth to the atmosphere that instantly made Bunny feel right at home.  The old world decor of exposed brick, concrete floors, and dark warm woods was brought to life with various pops of color throughout, like the glass panels on the windows, the giant painted lanterns hanging from the ceiling, the swirling murals along the walls, or the embedded bits of colored glass in the floor that positively mesmerized Bunny.

Inspired by the colors around her, Bunny picked out an equally colorful cocktail to kick off her meal; the Island Getaway made with pineapple and blue curacao.  Though not traditionally Italian, Bunny quite liked the fruity, sweet, and whimsical flavor.  "Is it artisan and natural and gourmet?  No," Bunny posited, "But is it fun?  Absolutely!"

Bunny started off her meal with a pair of cheesy appetizers; the Carciofi Ripieni and the Caprese di Burrata.  The Carciofi Ripieni, or stuffed artichokes, were very tender with a nice, nutty cheese both inside and on top.  The flavor was bright, citrusy, and almost sweet from being cooked in a white wine sauce.  The caprese was very fresh and rich with the uber creamy burrata taking the place of the more traditional mozzarella.  The herbiness of the basil was the dominant flavor along with a sprinkling of fresh pepper and some olive oil.  Bunny only wished for a firmer tomato at the base, as the slices beneath the cheese were on the watery side, but some brighter and more flavorful grape tomatoes on the top helped to compensate.

Instead of settling for one entree, Bunny decided to order two half servings of pasta so that she could try get the most out of her evening on her own.  First she tried the Braciole Beef Orecchette, a hearty dish with a bright and acidic tomato based sauce that was packed full of veggies for a classic Italian flavor.  Bunny loved how tender the beef rolls were, breaking apart easily with just her fork, while the pasta had been cooked to perfection with just a touch of chew to it.  Secondly, she sampled the Tartufata Laganelle, a linguini like pasta with a curly edge dressed with a truffle pesto, sausage, mushrooms, and a wedge of creamy goat cheese.  In this dish, Bunny felt that the pasta was the true star with the truffle flavor enhancing rather than overpowering everything.  The spiced sausage was a lovely accompaniment as was the goat cheese, which added a nice bite to an otherwise earthy, but light dish.

Lastly, Bunny finished off her meal with a dessert called Tartufo di Nocciola, a multi layered ball of ice cream coated in coco powder in order to resemble a truffle and topped with a spiked caramel sauce.  Though the texture of the dessert was a little grainy (Bunny suspected it hadn't frozen quite right) the flavor was pure hazelnut bliss with a nice boozy kick from the caramel.  "One would think this would be perfect for a chocoholic, but it's actually more nutty than anything else," she mused, sipping on an espresso.

Finally, she kicked back with a Limoncello and listened as a lovely young man played the accordian just behind her.  "I was so worried I wouldn't have company tonight," she laughed to herself, "But one can never be truly alone when there's a plate of food chock full of someone's love and passion in front of you."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine by the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

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