I have to admit that I cried inside when I heard that Piccolo Sogno Due was closing earlier this year. The Italian restauranta spinoff of the famed eatery Piccolo Sognohad two things patrons could count on: great food and the smiling face of Chef Tony Priolo.
Well, a few months later, another Italian restaurant has sprouted at Due's spotand, fortunately, those two items are still there. At Nonnina ( 340 N. Clark St.; NonninaChicago.com ), Priolo and co-business partner Ciro Longobardo have brought in Executive Chef/Partner Chris Macchia. ( Also, the effervescent Ricardo Brizuela is there as a general manager/partner. )
By the way, make no mistake: Nonnina is nothing like Duea fact Priolo emphatically stated during a recent visit I made. And, certainly, Nonninain terms of decoris nothing like its predecessor. The area that was a bar in Due has been transformed into a more casual space with items to go; in addition, there's a row of velvet booths in the main dining area, and there's a sleek bar that fronts depictions of Priolo's, Longobardo's and Macchia's grandmothers ( or "nonnas" ).
The cuisine is also unlike Due's, as the menu reflects the nonnas' old-school cooking techniques and offers what people would expect during a Sunday Italian dinner. ( In another nod to the restaurant's name, even the cocktails are named after past and present staffers' grandmothers. )
Lunch started with a wonderfully dry Franciatorta Brut prosecco as well as tasty appetizers in the form of baked artichokes and arancini moderni. The arancini were especially delicious, with pasta replacing the rice on the inside, almost giving the balls a quality of creamy mac 'n' cheese.
For entrees, my friend and I ordered, respectively, veal involtini and bucatini carbonara. The veal was a solid performer, and the bucatini lived up to similar dishes I've had at other restaurants ( although it didn't surpass them ).
Last, but certainly not least, we concluded with Nonnina's fine desserts. The budino di cioccolato ( dark-chocolate mousse, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, white chocolate shavings and fiori di latte ) was lovely, both in terns of vision and taste. However, the crostata di arance rosse ( blood-orange curd tart, whipped meringue ) was the superior dessert, with just the right amount of tang.
So, diners, take heart. Piccolo Sogno due is gonebut be thankful Nonnina is here.