After an excellent weeknight dinner at Coarse Italian, a new, locally owned restaurant in Glenview, I started to think about the steady increase in the number of Italian restaurants. The following weekend, I had dinner at Bacchanalia in the old Italian neighborhood on Oakley on Friday, followed by dinner at Gusto Italian Restaurant in suburban Wilmette on Saturday. No complaints, just a growing suspicion that Italian is fast becoming the world’s “second” cuisine, in the same way that English is the world’s second language.
Consider. Instead of bemoaning the addition of yet another trattoria or pizzeria offering yet another variation on a basic format, people line up to experience the difference, even if the difference is nothing more than cutting the pizza into squares, rather than triangles, or using burrata instead of mozzarella.
On the other hand, the Caesar salad at Coarse makes it clear that there’s always room for another variation on a beloved classic. In this version, the romaine is halved vertically and charred just long enough to sear the outside leaves. Served topped with Parmesan, garnished with croutons, and finished with a flavorful dressing, the salad makes you rethink the genre.
The same is true for the restaurant's version of arancini, which, in brief, is a ball of rice coated with crumbs and deep-fried. Simple enough. But at Coarse, the filling is made with a cheesy risotto, ground beef, peas and mozzarella and served on a delicious puddle of marinara sauce.
For chef/partner Franco Francese, Coarse is a continuation of D's Little Italy, his family's restaurant in La Grange Park. The restaurant closed in 2009, and, together with his brother Vito, he renovated, rebranded, and reopened the restaurant, now called Mattone, in 2010, followed by Coarse in 2019.For now, Franco focuses on Coarse, while his brother tends to Mattone.
Coarse's bucolic location at the public Glenview Golf Course is both good news and bad. In the summer, golfers drive the lunch business and -to a lesser extent- the early evening happy hour. Even so, not having a visible street location makes finding the restaurant a bit tricky for first-timers. On the other hand, diners have a spot- on view of the manicured golf course and plantings. Once the course closes for the winter, Francese, who lives in Glenview, plans to discontinue lunch service and focus entirely on dinner.
"That's when I'll introduce specials," he says. "They really drive business on the traditionally slow nights." In addition to expanding the menu and closing on Mondays, he'll also continue to menu dishes, such as ribs and burgers, that don't have Italian roots..
Asked about the restaurant's name, Francese says "coarse" refers to the "rustic" nature of the cuisine. It's also possible that "coarse" is a play on words, given its location on the golf "course." Either way, Coarse Italian has really good food and a beautiful site.
Get a head start on weekends every Thursday at Ambassador Chicago. From 6-8 pm, the iconic Gold Coast hotel hosts live performances by local musicians in the hotel's lounge, along with appetizers priced under $10. Expect items like grass fed beef sliders, crab cake sliders, taquitos and double cut bacon pops. In addition to an extensive repertoire of regularly priced cocktails, beer and wine, select glasses of wine will be available for half price.
1301 N. State Parkway
Japanese Matsuri 2019
Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya and the Japanese Culture Center will host the second annual "Kizuki Chicago Japanese Matsuri" from Friday, September 20 through Sunday, September 22. This year, the festival's second, will be both an indoor and outdoor event held at NEWCITY. The event celebrates Japan's culture with authentic food, drink and performances. NEWCITY's second floor space will house a "Retail World" featuring items from local retailers.
Admission is free. Food (all of it provided by Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya) and drink tickets will be available for purchase. One hundred per cent of the profit from food and drink sales will benefit the Japanese Culture Center and the Japanese Arts Foundation.
NEWCITY Plaza, 1457 N. Halsted St., garage parking available
Italian Village Restaurants is hosting the 22nd Annual Ferrari Fest on Sunday, September 8. The event will feature more than 50 Ferraris, all lined up on Monroe Street from Clark to Dearborn. An all-you-can-eat buffet of authentic Italian food will be available from 11 an-2 pm, all of it provided by the Italian Village Restaurants ($30 adults, free for children 6 and under). Proceeds from the 2019 Ferrari Fest will benefit the Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and Inspiration Corporation.
For more information, visit https://italianvillage-chicago.com/
Italian Village Restaurants, 71 W. Monroe
Veuve on the Veranda
Wednesdays-Saturdays, The Chicago Firehouse is featuring specially priced pours of three different Veuve Clicquot Champagnes on the restaurant's outdoor Veranda lounge. Flutes are priced from $19-$25; a flight of all three is $35.
The Chicago Firehouse is open from 5-10 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 5pm-11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant's complete menu is available for alfresco dining throughout the dinner hours.
The Chicago Firehouse, 1401 S. Michigan Avenue. For reservations, visit ChicagoFirehouse.com or call 312.786.1401.
Filed under: Italian Food