Often, when people speak about Chicago, they do so affectionately on the sports teams, the bitter wind during the winter months, politicians, the Sears Tower, the Magnificent Mile, hot dogs, pizza, and Garrett Popcorn. Those who frequent the many restaurants and cafes in the city rave about being able to enjoy some of the best food in America.Chicago Foodies know that the city is a hot spot for excellent Italian cuisine.. Osteria Langhe, at 2824 W. Armitage Avenue, is one of Chicago’s newer Italian restaurants that has helped to make Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood one of the city’s most inviting neighborhoods for dining.
Osteria Langhe serves Italian cuisine that is more customary in the Piedmont region. Being in an experimental mood, I didn’t look at the menu. I gave the server a disclaimer: I love seafood and, while I have no food allergies, I hate nuts. As for something to drink, simply tell the bartender what you plan to send to the table and have he or she mix a cocktail to pair accordingly. I entrusted everything to the server.
For my first course, I had polipo. This dish of grilled octopus, heirloom tomatoes, basil, capers, saffron oil, and grilled bread was a fantastic starter. The octopus did not have the rubbery texture, you normally expect. The tenderness of it made cutting into it seem like slicing through very tender fish. Although the salad of tomatoes and mini greens did not have much of a vinaigrette on it, there was enough to accompany the salad while letting the octopus have the stage.
The bartender had mixed me a cocktail that I never noted because I was engaged in lively conversation with the owner. It was quite refreshing and had a vodka base. Thanks to me not getting the name of the drink, I had a reason to return and to order the drink again. A photo of the cocktail would be the only cue that I could offer so that the bartender would remember what he had mixed.
The second course was a salad of spicy mixed greens, kohlrabi, green peas, parmesan, and croutons of fried veal brains. The “sweetbread” croutons were actually flavorful and like fried cotton candy — if you can imagine that. The vinaigrette on the salad was light--much like on the salad that came with the polipo--and it allowed for a burst of flavor without competing with any salad dressing.
The third course of risotto with shrimp and scallop was where I thought that I had reached the highlight of my dining experience. The risotto comes as a different variety per day. For my first visit, I had the seafood version. A very, very creamy base to it, the risotto reminded me of French cooking. This dish was Italian cooking at its finest. I savored the risotto at great length, as such a dish should not be devoured in a rush.
With the third course, and as a continuation into the fourth course, I had a Paloma. This was another summer drink made with grapefruit, lime sugar, tequila, and Filbert’s grapefruit soda. Those in Chicago may have ventured to the 3400 block of South Ashland Avenue and quenched their thirst with a Filbert’s soda. Their grapefruit soda in the Paloma was definitely a divine ingredient.
The fourth course was the dish that sealed my decision to become a regular at Osteria Langhe. This plate of soft shell crab and insalata russa is one that I recommend highly. The soft shell crab was prepared with an egg batter that made it very light. There was so much meat in the crab that each bite was an explosion. The insalata russa, which is a combination of potato salad and tuna salad, was a dream. Not a salad that one finds on Italian menus, it was an ideal choice for this dish and a great introduction to something authentically Italian that is not served in America-side Italian eateries.
The fifth course was the finale. This was nothing usual like a tiramisu, tartufo, biscotti, or a cannoli, but it was creamy and outstanding for a wrap-up. I had a panna cotta served with mixed berries. Along with that came a small glass of Amaro liqueur. Having a dessert like this prepared at the restaurant means it comes without artificial ingredients. All you get is greatness in taste. Osteria Langhe certainly shined in this regard.
One may argue that a city can have too many Italian restaurants. However, that is not a bad thing when it comes to discovering more to Italian dining than pasta, pizza, and red sauce. The introduction to Piedmont cuisine was absolutely luscious. The service is out of this world fantastic, from the owner who is fully engaging in conversation, the way restaurant owners are in Italy, to servers who can offer tempting recommendations, to the bar service that mixes cocktails without any disappointment. Osteria Langhe has a feel to it reminiscent of going to a friend’s home. Regular customers will attest that this Italian restaurant on the Logan Square landscape is a welcomed addition.
Gino is a guest blogger on AptAmigo. To see more of his articles, check out Chicago Alphabet Soup.