Monteverde: Contemporary Italian Fare with Classic Options
Neighborhood: West Loop
Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★
Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★
Food Quality: ★★★★★
Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2
I have seen so many blogs and write-ups featuring Monteverde so I figured it’s time for me to try this place out! I have a love/hate relationship with the West Loop. There are so many amazing restaurants here but they’re bourgie, expensive, and tend to attract tourists and an older yuppie clientele. Now, obviously I have my bourgie, yuppie moments. In spite of my reservations, I decided to make reservations about a month ago for Monteverde. I got them for 9:45pm on a Saturday night. Reservations are hard to get for this restaurant! We walked in, were greeted nicely by the hosts and just had to wait about 5 minutes before being seated.
I love the open, sleek, modern design of Monteverde. The food and interior design of the restaurant go hand-in-hand since they’re both contemporary and traditional without trying too hard. It has high ceilings, culinary books on the shelves, and beautiful pasta made in-house featured in the glass display when you walk in. They were playing an eclectic variety of music ranging from Blondie to generic 90’s alt rock. I thought the music was probably the only mismatched component of this West Loop place but I thought it was kind of funny.
Instead of giving you bread, they give you a nice assortment of Grissini (crispy breadsticks) in a mason jar glass. It was really cute – the breadsticks were good but nothing amazing. They had a wonderful assortment of wine and cocktails – I had a little too much wine the night before so I didn’t really feel like drinking. They were excellent with the water refills though!
Monteverde is a small plates type of restaurant, which does add up of course. The menu is small and half of it had meat in it but there were still decent options for vegetarians and pescatarians, which is definitely a virtue of Italian cuisine. We started out with the Artichoke and Sunchoke Crostini and the Smoked Fish Rillette. The Crostini stole the show. It had truffle, artichokes, ricotta, melted fontina, and shallots. All of the ingredients complimented one another very well and it melted in your mouth. The bread was crispy and soaked up the flavors. The truffle was prominent but it didn’t dominate the other flavors.
The Smoked Fish Rillette was good but nothing amazing. It was like a cold, smoked fish paté served with crispy polenta sticks (these were made really well), pickled onion, everything spice, and a dried cherry tomato. The crispy polenta sticks were really well seasoned and the pickled onions were delightful. I think the smoked fish rillette could have been smokier and a bit tastier. They had a really good looking burrata dish on the menu but it had ham in it, I think that was their featured appetizer though.
The pastas were perfection. We ordered the Tortelloni di Zucca and the Gnochetti con Pesto. It was so amazing that when I had those first few bites, I had to stop talking, close my eyes, and just completely savor and focus on the mélange of flavors in my mouth. The Tortelloni di Zucca consisted of pumpkin-filled tortellini, delicious herbs like sage, an apple balsamic, and parmesan cheese. The apple balsamic provided a nice savory flavor in relation to the mild sweetness of the pumpkin. The light balsamic/butter sauce complemented the stronger parmesan and tortellini.
But my awe did not stop with the tortellini, the Gnochetti con Pesto was awe-inspiring as well. I haven’t had pesto of this quality since I was in Milan years ago. The basil pesto tasted extremely fresh and went perfectly with the more mild ricotta. There were crunchy pine nuts to add a different texture along with the nuttier pecorino cheese. Not only are their sauces made perfectly but their pastas are fresh and taste like they are actually made in-house.
I love Italian desserts so I couldn’t say no to their dessert menu! We concluded our meal with the Butterscotch Budino. It had whipped mascarpone, pecan toffee, butterscotch pudding, and a brûléed top. The toffee and chocolate meshed so well together and the mascarpone provided a nice pause to the sweetness. It was not your traditional Italian dessert but it was absolutely delicious and delicate. We had to pack most of it to go since we were full from all of the other plates.
If you want to treat yourself or have something to celebrate and want to venture out of traditional Italian cuisine, Monteverde is an excellent choice. It is pricier being a West Loop restaurant, but you won’t be disappointed with the flavors.
Rosie’s Sidekick: Classic Italian Subs with Real Vegetarian Options
Neighborhood: Logan Square
Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★
Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★
Food Quality: ★★★1/2
Overall Rating: ★★★1/2
You might have noticed a small shop that opened up in Logan Square by Mi Tocaya called Rosie’s Sidekick. What is it all about? Rosie’s Sidekick is a small, Italian sub shop that opened up a few months ago and aims to offer affordable Italian subs to the Logan Square community. While Logan Square has a plethora of restaurants, it is definitely in need of more affordable, quicker restaurants so I was happy to see Rosie’s Sidekick open.
Stop by Rosie’s for a refreshing sub and take it to Logan Boulevard for a lovely picnic. Be sure to bring cash though since it’s cash-only if you don’t want to pay an annoying ATM fee. Rosie’s is pretty small and you can just order at the counter or call ahead of time but there really isn’t an area to sit.
While Rosie’s is known for their subs, they also have minestrone soup. I decided to try their soup and was a bit underwhelmed. It wasn’t very flavorful and it just felt like mainly vegetable broth with some boiled vegetables. However, the subs were much better. Having been a fan of Italian subs prior to becoming a vegetarian, I was super excited to see an Italian deli offering true vegetarian options – not just subs loaded with cheese and lettuce, but actual vegetables! Their bread is also super fresh and mouthwatering.
Rosie’s offers an Eggplant Parmesan sub, and a cold Veggie sub. The Eggplant Parmesan sub has the potential to be a savory delight with its signature crusty bread but the eggplant was pretty disappointing. It wasn’t breaded like it should be with a name like “eggplant parmesan” and there wasn’t a lot of tomato sauce. It was mainly just oily eggplant and cheese. Now sometimes I like oily stuff and I was just happy to eat eggplant, but it was not what I expected it to be. It’s basically an eggplant sub with some melted Italian provolone, which was still decent.
But the real deal was the cold Veggie sub. It was an extremely refreshing, well-seasoned sub with an abundance of their delectable olive muffuletta. If you are an olive lover, you will be in heaven, I know I was! The artichokes and roasted red peppers add a nice, contrasting texture to an intense and delightful sandwich and the pesto was a lovely finishing touch to complement the olive flavor. This was my favorite item from there by far.
Rosie’s is also known for their cannoli so I couldn’t resist trying a cannoli. You can get the cannoli with a chocolate chip or pistachio filling adding a fun crunchy texture to its creamy goodness. It was a good cannoli but there were these random small chunks of fruit in there that were a bit surprising. I wasn’t really used to seeing that in a cannoli. It still was pretty delicious though.
While Rosie’s had some hits and misses, their cold veggie sub makes it worth returning to as it’s a perfect season for something refreshing and hearty. I hope that they can work out some of the flavors more. For more information, please check out my recent article and interview with the owner, Fred Pecoraro in LoganSquarist. https://logansquarist.com/2018/06/rosies-sidekick-expands-logan-squares-selection-of-quick-gourmet-bites/