l'Aventino Forno Romano
Chicago used to have two kinds of pizza: thin crust and deep dish. Anywhere that isn’t Chicago still refers to deep dish as “Chicago-style,” but that’s a misnomer. Thin crust pizza in more variations than you can count on two hands is where the now-crowd is, and the newest of the new is “pinsa,” the next generation Roman-style pizza served at l’Aventino Forno Romano.
Adam Weisell, l’Aventino’s chef/owner, grew up in Rome, the son of American parents whose father worked for the United Nations. When asked to describe “pinsa,” he says the difference is in the crust.
In short, pinsa’s crust is “airy” (as opposed to heavy and dense), “crisp,” (as opposed to soggy) and “moist” (as opposed to dry). The dough, a mix of wheat, soy and rice flours, is made with natural yeast and takes at least two days to rise. As a result, Weisell adds, the dough is “more digestible” than most pizza doughs and has “less fat and carbohydrates.”
The crust provides a good base for a variety of artisanal toppings. Some of the pinsas are made with tomato sauce, and some are vegetarian. One option, the “What’s American,” includes both pepperoni and oregano, the latter an herb Weisell says is rarely-if ever-used in traditional Italian cooking.
While pinsas are what drives the restaurant, the menu includes a variety of antipasti, salads, and small plates, along with a selection of cheeses or cured meats or both. Expect Italian favorites like tiramisu and a torta made with ricotta cheese and dark chocolate for dessert.
l’Aventino has a lot of plusses, and one of them is the layout. Most of the seating is on the main floor, but there are also three smaller spaces: one on the second level, one on the third, and one on the outdoor patio. Levels one and two are up and running, but the patio will have to wait until spring.
l’Aventino Forno Romano, 355 E. Ohio Street 312.964.5112
High, Low, Lean, No
"Eating healthy is a lifestyle, not a short term diet," is shorthand for a philosophy that resonates with both chef Ben Goodnick of Summer House Santa Monica (SHSM) and nutritionist Karina Heinrich, founder of “The Karina Method.” While the two have often worked together on an informal basis, the restaurant is featuring four dishes, all of them created by Goodnick, that follow Heinrich's guidelines through February 12.
“It’s a trial run,” Goodnick says. Referring to the “yes” sign hanging in the restaurant, he explains, “We’ve always done our best to honor a customer’s requests. This takes the policy a step further.”
Asked to explain The Karina Method, Heinrich answers, “Think High Low Lean No.” She adds, “The ‘high’ refers to water, fiber and clean carbs, the ‘low’ to healthy fats. ‘Lean’ proteins are next, followed by the ‘no,’ as in no sugar and no added salt.”
It’s the “no” that presents the biggest challenge.
“Serving tasty dishes made without added salt is especially difficult,” Goodnick continues. “Cooking proteins and vegetables on our wood fired grill enhances their flavor, which makes it easier to dial down the salt content.”
If the response to the current Karina Method special is favorable, Goodnick says the restaurant will do a follow-up when the Alaskan halibut season begins in the spring. Meanwhile, expect a favorable response when you request a tweak or two at Summer House Santa Monica. The "yes" sign isn't wall candy, it's policy.
Summer House Santa Monica, 1954 N. Halsted 773.634.4100
Stan's Donuts & Coffee
With Valentine's Day just over the proverbial horizon, Stan's Donuts & Coffee has a new lineup of decadent donuts and beverages designed with the holiday in mind. Expect specials like the Chocolate Dipped Red Velvet Donut, the Chocolate-Covered Cherry Hot Chocolate, and the Chocolate Turtle Cake Donut topped with chocolate, caramel pecans, and a chocolate drizzle. The promotion begins on February 3 and continues through February 16 at all Stan's Donuts & Coffee locations.
The 3rd annual Long Grove Cocoa Crawl is slated for Saturday, February 1 from noon to 4pm. In addition to celebrating the winter season, this year's event will showcase the suburb's rehabbed downtown. A map detailing the event will be available at the Visitor's Center. There's no charge for admission.
Visitor's Center, 308 Old McHenry Rd. http://longgrove.org/festivals/cocoa-crawl/
Valentine's Day at ETA Restaurant + Bar
The prix-fixe ($56) Valentine's Day dinner (February 14th and 15th) at ETA Restaurant+ Bar in the Loews Chicago Hotel begins with a winter squash risotto followed by a filet + colossal shrimp.
Dessert partners chocolate with strawberries with a Veuve Clicquot gelee. A complimentary glass of Prosecco is included with the prix-fixe.
ETA Restaurant + Bar, 455 North Park Drive, 312.840.6605
RPM Seafood, a seafood-focused restaurant owned by R.J., Jerrod and Molly Melman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, and celebrity couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic, opened recently at 317 N. Clark Street. The restaurant is the final phase of a multi-level waterfront project that also includes Pizzeria Portofino and an event space (RPM Events). Expect seafood towers, bone -in swordfish ribeye, charcoal-grilled black bass with Moroccan spices, and grilled king crab with curry aioli.
The restaurant is open Mondays-Sundays from 4pm-11:30 pm.
RPM Seafood, 317 Clark St.