When it comes to Italian restaurants, I know what you're thinking: bad murals of Rome painted on rustic-looking plaster walls, checkered tablecloths, cheap bottles of Chianti strewn about and endless recordings of Dean Martin or Pavarotti singing about either pizza or the joys of the martini. However, Phil Stefani's 437 Rush is not cliché, not in any way.
If I had to describe the restaurant in one word, I would say "delightful." The bar area is a blend of classic Italy and River North, with its carrera marble bar top and modern background murals, you instantly are aware that this is not the Olive Garden, or Macaroni Grille or whatever terrible place has convinced you that you are, in fact, eating Italian food. Oh sure, you'll see the assortment of black-and-white photographs of men and women who had something to do with Italian food, Italian music or the founding of 437 Rush, but nary a Leaning Tower of Pisa is to be seen.
Perhaps I am used to hearing "That's Amore" played while I slurp down overcooked spaghetti carbonara (which, thanks to Rachael Ray, is a step above Hamburger Helper these days). However, the music at 437 Rush is a unique assortment of French jazz, house music and even electronica that at least gives the illusion that you might actually be in Europe. I must say, even if it served food worse than Portillo's, this alone is reason enough to dine here.
Executive Chef Federico Comacchio is a master of meat. The restaurant is known for a number of dishes but none so much as the endless supply of great-quality surf and turf. Once mooing, baaing or making whatever noise it is octopi make, Comacchio has turned that cacophony into a meat-lover's delight. If you see lamb chops anywhere on the menu, I highly recommend them. Lamb is one of those finicky meats that, if prepared poorly may cause a psychotic breakdown; however, when prepared properly, it will cause spontaneous renditions of long-forgotten arias. In other words, the lamb is awesome.
Comacchio is also quite adept at his handling of seafood. His "carpaccio di barbe, capensante, tartufo e zucca" (roasted scallops, red beet carpaccio, pumpkin vinaigrette and black truffle) is a creative fusion of Italian and Midwestern flavors. I have but two caveats for the seafood diners here. First, 437 Rush uses the biggest shrimp I have ever seen. Now, any cook knows that large shrimp are troublesome little buggers to prepare. One second too long on the barbie and "POOF!"overcooked shrimp. Second, I was told that 437 Rush is known the world over for its lobster bisque. Normally, words from the hipster lexicon do not make it to my precocious lips, but in this case, after trying the lobster bisque I was "underwhelmed." The bisque was a bit thin for my liking and the lobster flavor was a mere sigh from the mouth of the lobster. I want my lobster screaming.
Phil Stefani's 437 Rush is the quality food, flavor and ambience of Italy but without the overpronunciation of "ricotta" that makes me want to smack Giada de Laurentiis in the face with a cuttlefish. If you like extremely good Italian food, I doubt you'll be disappointed at 437 Rush.
See www.philstefanis437rush.com .