Pelago Restaurant

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chef/Owner Mauro Mafrici



by Ethel Gofen, Officier Dame de la Chaîne

        Last year Chicago’s Raffaello Hotel brought renowned Chef/Owner Mauro Mafrici with his partner and wife Kimberly Anguil Mafrici from Europe by way of New York to Chicago to head Pelago Ristorante and to present the best of fine contemporary Italian dining to an appreciative Gold Coast neighborhood.  Our November Chaîne dinner there began with a lively reception where we sampled crostini with tomato and rucola, tuna tartar with capers and chives, and eggplant and shrimp starters, all paired with Champagne G. H. Mumm Brut NV.

        Eleven new members who will be inducted in December were warmly welcomed to their first Chaîne dinner as Maître Hôtelier Russell Menkes toasted to “our mentors, the people who first inspired us to become disciples of gastronomy,” and to our members and their guests. A five-course feast then commenced with breast of capon stuffed with silky goose liver mousse, paired with Kerner, Abbazia di Novacella Alto Adige-Valle Varna 2009, a white wine developed from a red grape variety by a German vintner in 1929. The Risotto with carmelized onions and a fragrant black truffle reduction was matched with a fuller-bodied Roero Arneis, Vietti Piemonte 2008. Next, a course of gnocchi stuffed with veal and served on a bed of braised Savoy cabbage was accompanied by Nebbiolo Perbacco, Vietti Piemonte 2007.

        A wine produced from the same grape as the Nebbiolo but in a vintage eight years older, the Barolo, Luigi Scavino “Azelia San Rocco” Piemonte 1999, balanced beautifully the delicious depth of flavors of the roast loin of lamb enhanced with fresh porcini mushroom sauce. Porcinis were a nod to Chef Mauro’s birthplace, Trieste, and perhaps made this dish a perfect exemplar of “umami, the fifth taste.” This very tender, perfectly finished dish was followed by chestnut cake with persimmon sauce and a sweet Vin Santo, Felsina Chianti Classico Toscana 2001, a wine in which the grapes are dried before being pressed. Dinner talk ranged from the probable impact of the new Michelin Guide on Chicago restaurants and hotels, varieties of wine cellars, and sous-vide history. Chef Mauro presented the food commentary, while Vice-Chancelier/Argentier Simeon “Mon” Roldan discussed the wines. Chef Mauro then introduced his sous-chef and also Vinnie, who makes the gnocchi. Bailli Jane Tracy thanked the entire staff and presented Chef Mauro with a Chaîne decanter and a special bottle of wine to fill it as we applauded their inspired labors on our behalf.


Pelago Ristorante is the Gold Coast’s new upscale Italian restaurant on East Delaware Place and has, since its opening a year ago, captivated the attention of aficionados of refined Italian cuisine in Chicago ever since.

Chef/Owner Mauro Mafrici - born just outside Venice in Trieste - conducts his culinary orchestra like a maestro which isn’t surprising considering his career spans nearly 25 years taking him from Italy to Germany, Barbados and Rome. He established himself as one of New York’s most respected chefs after having been “plucked from obscurity” by Lidia Bastianich in 1990’s Rome to design a new menu for Felidia. This then led to the reincarnation of Artusi and then onward to I Trulli before opening his own restaurant Lo Scalco in the Tribeca neighborhood. Chef Mauro also earned an invitation to craft and execute a menu for The Beard House.

Pelago’s décor is reminiscent of the leading edge Italian restaurants in Milano with its attendant subtle ambience and stylized accent pieces that include Italian porcelain chandeliers, white leather chairs, a mother-of-pearl fireplace, an aqua vestibule and aqua blue damask banquettes.  Kimberly Anguil Mafrici , his partner and wife, is the space’s architect and together they have honored both Italy’s artistic and culinary traditions.

Italian wines will be paired with each of the five courses and Pelago will be closed exclusively for our Chaîne dinner.

Anticipate an escape to the elegance of Italy and I look forward to welcoming you.