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  WINDY CITY TIMES

SAVOR Eataly's Baita; Restaurant Week
DISH Dining Guide
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2018-12-26

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You can visit the Italian Alps here in Chicago.

Baita, located in the River North spot Eataly ( 43 E. Ohio St.; www.eataly.com/us_en/stores/chicago/chi-baita/ ), brings this area of Europe to the Windy City. And it's a seasonal spot, bringing the Italian winter through March. ( Also, "baita" means "small ski lodge," reinforcing the decor. )

I advise you to check out this spot while you can. There are wine tastings, cool alpine settings and, of course, some very tasty food.

However, be sure to start with the impressive selections of alpine cocktails or wine. I had the Alpenglow—a tart and absolutely delicious melange of brandy, Luxardo Triplum, Shrubb and Co. Cranberry Pine and lemon. My dining companion really liked The Stelvio Pass, which contains Rittenhouse Rye, Borgogno Barolo Chinato and Fee Bros mint bitters. There are also slews of "warming wines," as they're called, and digestifs from which to choose—but I capped things off at the end with the lovely sipping chocolate ( with a hint of Fratello Hazelnut liqueur ).

There's also a nice ( and unexpectedly large ) selection of culinary items. The arancini di funghi e tartufi nailed the Italian rice-ball concept nicely, and we fell in love with the raclette ( melted-cheese dish ) that can come with house-pickled vegetables, marble potatoes and/or ham. ( These's also a melted-cheese bar, with accompanying items like fig mostarda and apples. ) For me, it was the pasta dishes that really stood out: We tried two scrumptious gnocchi dishes—one with roasted squash, brown butter and sage; and another with braised veal breast and caramelized onions. And there's also a spaghetti dish with slightly kicky pork sausage, roasted mushrooms and black truffle butter—perfection on a plate.

If, for some reason, those dishes don't appeal to you, there are plenty of other choices. Antipasti include spiedini di Manzo, with Wagyu beef skewers, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil; and antipasti misti, an olio of housemade mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, basil-and-walnut pesto, Bosc pears, olives, prosciutto jam, crackers and more. Of course, there are pizzas ( like speck e fontina ); and larger plates with items like trota, which consists of trout, black rice, squash and Brussels sprouts.

Basically, you can't go wrong with Baita and ,after that, you can check out the rest of what Eataly has to offer—which is a heck of a lot.

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

Chicago Restaurant Week

The new year may not quite be here, but Chicago Restaurant Week will be here before you know it.

Chicago's world-class culinary scene will once again be in the spotlight during the 12th annual Chicago Restaurant Week, Jan. 25- Feb. 7. ( Yes, it's technically two weeks, but "Chicago Restaurant Fortnight" doesn't have quite the same ring. )

Produced by Choose Chicago, reservations for the annual culinary celebration are now open at eatitupchicago.com, featuring menus for participating Chicago-area eateries. A record number of Chicago restaurants—395!—will take part in 2019's Chicago Restaurant Week. ( More than 600,000 diners took part in 2018. )

Chicago Restaurant Week will launch with First Bites Bash, featuring Joe Flamm, executive chef of Spiaggia and Cafe Spiaggia, and Chicago mixologist Jarmel Doss, assistant bar director of The Aviary, as First Bites Bash hosts, on Thursday, Jan. 24, 6-9 p.m., at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. More than 70 of Chicago's most famous chefs and restaurants will be represented at the event, which allows participants to preview tasting portions from their respective Chicago RestaurantWeek menus. For a complete list of participating restaurants and to purchase tickets to First Bites Bash, visit firstbitesbash.com .


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