Monday, January 18, 2010
Chef / Owner Tony Priolo, Ciro Longobardo / Owner
Grandmother’s Recipes Inspire Meravigliosa Notte Italiana at Piccolo Sogno
The wildly popular Piccolo Sogno (“the little dream”) was the scene for Chicago Bailli Jane Tracy’s January 18 New Year’s wishes for our Bailliage: prosperity, health, happiness and love in 2010. Love of great food reigned as we enjoyed a dinner inspired by Executive Chef/Owner Tony Priolo’s Sicilian grandmother and his devotion to authentic, unadulterated Italian multiregional cooking. Passed starters—-grapes stuffed with goat cheese and pistachio, crostini with house-made wild boar sausage, spinach parmesan-stuffed mushrooms, caponata with shrimp, white bean soup with truffle oil, and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus—-were accompanied by Bellavista Franciacorta Cuvée Brut, one of Italy’s best spumantes according to Vice-Chancelier/Argentier Mon Roldan, who enhanced our knowledge of each wine throughout the dinner.
After Chevalier Matthew Fox toasted to the pleasure of having our guests join us, we enjoyed a salad of four varieties of beets from a local Indiana farm with arugula, blood oranges and goat cheese. This dish was paired with Verdicchio, Villa Bucci Classico, Castelli di Jesi Marche 2007. Branzino delivered fresh from the Mediterranean paired with braised fennel was flavored with a citrus and caper reduction. We drank Blaufränkisch & Blauburgunder, Jermann Family Blau & Blau, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia IGT2006 with the fish, then turned our attention to a succulent course of Malfatti, ricotta dumplings with hand-shredded rabbit ragu. Malfatti means “badly made,” but this delicious creamy dish was made extremely well indeed.
Brilliant Wine Director/Owner Ciro Longobardo provided a superb Barolo, Famiglio Amselmo 1997, and we quickly understood why Piccolo Sogno won the 2009 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. The wine was opened at 1:00 p.m. and decanted at 6:00 to bring it to perfection for our dinner. A dish of slow-braised veal cheeks, Tuscan kale and semolina revealed how Chef Tony sources artisanal ingredients from Italy. It was artfully matched with Sangiovese, Montevertine Le Pergole Torte, Toscana 2001. The sweet finale of Sicilian pistachio (quite expensive, we learned !) semifreddo, chocolate and candied black Amarena cherries was matched with Zibibbo (Moscato d’Alessandria), Donnafugata Ben Ryé, Passito di Pantelleria DOC Sicily 2006. As promised, the wines were paired with great flair.
Vice-Conseiller Culinaire David Danielson provided the food commentary. We applauded as chef Tony and Ciro introduced their staffs. Jane Tracy gave the owners a Chaîne plaque, and each staff member received a pin expressing our thanks for this wonderful celebration of Italian specialties. Gastronomique des Etats Unis Hon. Roger Tracy complimented the owners on their entrepreneurial courage in opening this true gem, and Chef Tony shared his secret: “To be successful, you need to be here every day all day.” We quickly appreciated why so many food professionals head to Piccolo Sogno on their night off. My own “little dream” is of returning here often. Experiencing its legendary outdoor patio that many deem the best in all Chicago will have to wait until summer, but I can dream, can’t I?