An Italian newcomer in an easy-to-miss Armitage Avenue space in Logan Square has made quite a splash on the Chicago dining scene in a few short months. Osteria Langhe serves cuisine from Italy's Piedmont region, a hilly area bordering France and Switzerland. The traditional dishes feature the region's famous white truffles, fragrant herbs and rich, eggy pastas, with hardly a drop of red sauce on the menu.
Inside, the space is sleek and modern, with sharp lines and a muted gray palette, warmed ever-so-slightly by a rustic wooden bar. The dining room is serenealmost austereand it sets the tone for the food to take center stage.
The meal begins simply with a cup full of long, thin breadsticks, which are traditionally served in the Piedmont. While not spectacular, they are tasty enough to nibble on while you make some decisions about cocktails and antipasti. There's a robust selection of Italian wines as well as a several stiff cocktails that aren't overdone with too many ingredients. As for antipasti, look for classic offerings like poached beef or fonduta, a rich and savory flan made with artichoke, spinach and Parmesan. Whatever else you try from the antipasti menu, don't skip the plin. It's a paper-thin pasta, yellow in its color from the egg yolks it's made with, and hand-pinched into tiny ravioli filled with La Tur, a creamy and pungent Brie-like cheese. The delicate pasta is dressed simply ( and perfectly ) in butter, thyme and Parmesan.
I visited Osteria Langhe during the holidays, when there was a special lobster salad on offer. A plump and succulent warm lobster tail sat atop greens and tender farro. It was scrumptious, and indicative of the quality of the dishes that are served here. Antipasti dishes are sized to allow you to save room for a second course of meat, fish or pasta. Expect straightforward, but exquisitely executed, preparations of duck, rabbit, scallops and beef. One of the more interesting main-course pasta offerings is tortelloni stuffed with lamb and green olives, and tossed in a light cream sauce of toasted garlic, rosemary and Parmesan. The small portion is deceptively rich and filling. I really enjoyed the steak, a tender portion of prime New York strip grilled to perfection and served in thin slices. The steak is paired simply with roasted fingerling potatoes and sautéed escarole, but a dollop of creamy Gorgonzola cheese and a splash of red wine glaze make it memorable.
Dessert brings Italian classics like panna cotta and affogato. I opted instead for the less traditional and more playful S'Amore, a cleverly named and upscale interpretation of s'mores. The gourmet s'mores are served deconstructed, beginning with moist and fluffy graham cracker shortbread. Cool, creamy ( and not too sweet ) marshmallow gelato stands in for the roasted campfire confection. And, instead of a hunk of a Hershey bar, there's a pot of hot Gianduja chocolate, a hazelnut chocolate spread commonly served in the Piedmontit's not unlike Nutella, but it has a more complex flavor profile.
Osteria Langhe is at 2824 W. Armitage Ave.; call 773-661-1582 or visit www.osterialanghe.com .
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