January 10, 2013

On our last night in Florence, Matt and I had dinner at a small, family run restaurant in the Oltrarno called Trattoria Da Ginone. I ordered bucatini tossed with peperoncini flakes, parsley, and breadcrumbs fried in olive oil. Olive oil soaked breadcrumbs add nice, crispy bite and texture to any the pasta, anywhere, but there’s obviously something special about eating it in Italy. I’m always tempted to roll my eyes, then, when someone promises that this or that Italian restaurant in New York or San Francisco or wherever is “just like being in Italy”.

Really? And are there two thousand year old ruins around the corner from this quaint little trattoria? How about a Michelangelo sculpture within spitting distance? Then again, being in Italy doesn’t guarantee a phenomenal meal. It helps, of course, but in truth I was surprised to find that unlike in Paris, where you can get a fresh pressed jambon-beurre for mere euros at any old hole in the wall, in Rome it was all too easy to stumble upon lousy panini.

Briciola, a restaurant specializing in Northern Italian cuisine, is in the Ukranian Village neighborhood of Chicago.  It does look a bit like some of the places we ate in Italy, and the service is genuine and warm, but the food is what matters, and it’s delicious. We started with one of the appetizer specials, a trio of lightly fried arancini with spicy pomodoro dipping sauce. There were several things on the menu that I would have been happy to try, which means I’ll be going back. I ended up with the macaroncini alla briciola, which was described as baby macaroni with Italian sausage in a spicy tomato, garlic and sage sauce, but the pasta looked more like rigatoni. Matt’s choice, pork on the bone, was tender and perfectly paired with mashed potatoes in a mushroom sauce. Next time we’ll bring some wine with our appetites.

Briciola: 947 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, IL



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