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SAVOR Brunch at etta; The Florentine's aperitivo
DISH Dining Guide
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times.

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Let's get one thing out of the way: the new Bucktown spot etta ( 1840 W. North Ave.; ), from the creators of Gold Coast restaurant Maple & Ash, is not named after singer Etta James or any other famous Etta who might come to mind.

Rather, as a server informed me during a recent brunch there, the name means "keeper of the hearth"—a nod to the wood-fired menu items there.

And there's quite a selection at etta, which has friendly staff, open spaces, some groovin' music ( like Alice Merton's "No Roots" ) and some tasty offerings. ( However, there was one negative: the rickety table with an unintentionally spinning top—although that would be cool in allowing people to share dishes. )

If you're carb-phobic, you might be in trouble, as etta has a tempting selection of breads and pastries—including the multilayered kouign-amann, which has been called one of the fattiest of European breads. There are also items like focaccia ( with ricotta and strawberry preserves ), various croissants, buttermilk biscuits and cinnamon pecan-glazed banana bread.

The plates cover the savory and sweet—but they're all nice comfort foods. The scrumptious tarte flambe featured uplands cheese, bacon, onion, creme fraiche and egg; the buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy are savory, and the optional chicken accompaniment was wonderful; and the huge pancakes come with honey butter, bliss maple syrup and strawberry jam. The Sando is an intriguing dish that's topped with mortadella, Italian sausage, pepperoni, avocado, mozzarella, arugula, tomato, onion, giardiniera and fried egg. There's also an intoxicating mix of cocktails ( pun intended ), although I opted for tangerine juice during this outing.

Regarding brunch, it is a must at this place. In a city where brunch is taken quite seriously, that's saying ( or writing ) a lot.

Aperitivo at The Florentine

In Italy, the time known as "aperitivo" is taken quite seriously in Italy. It's more than a traditional happy hour, as it's more like a cocktail hour with upscale food.

And local Italian restaurant The Florentine ( 151 W. Adams St.; ) is reflecting that time of the day/evening with its own aperitivo.

The Florentine's aperitivo takes place weekdays at 4-7 p.m., with some great offerings, in the gustatory and financial senses. Divided into "sips" and "bites," drinks include the Campari spritz, the Lillet Blonde ( lillet, elderflower, grapefruit juice, lemon bitters, soda water ) and the Suze Bellini ( suze, peach puree, prosecco, tarragon garnish ), among others. Culinary treats include burratina ( with baby burrata ), mini crab cakes, nduja, meatball sliders and crostini—with no item being more than $5.

In addition, people can receive a complimentary pizza for their group with the purchase of any alcoholic beverages. If that's not a reason for trying out this place, I don't know what is.

Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.

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