Since opening its doors earlier this year, J. Rocco Italian Table has done more than just create dishes of cauliflower that prompt out of body experiences. The 80-seat dining room and newly opened second-floor bar serve easy, casual Italian food simple enough for a Tuesday night but special enough to warrant a visit with out-of-town guests. Chef Steve Chiappetti’s menu includes house made pastas, pizzas, entrées such as sturgeon, lamb scallopine and seafood stew, plus five different signature meatball preparations. The hand made gnocchi, baked with gorgonzola cheese and herb crust, is melt-in-your mouth amazing and the fusilli is cooked perfectly to al dente, tossed with pulled chicken, spinach, pine nuts and a roasted pepper cream sauce.
Even if I had an Italian grandmother, I would probably still prefer Chiappetti’s cooking to hers. Chiappetti and owner Joseph Frasca share a Calabrian heritage and Chiappetti’s family owns the famous Chicago slaughter and packinghouse, Chiappetti Lamb and Veal.
Plus, Chiappetti gives a very convincing testament that to the fact that because his pasta is made with fresh eggs, it’s full of protein and should basically be considered health food. Whatever, I buy it.
One of the best pizzas on the menu, which is so good that I wish I were eating it right now, is simply prepared with prosciutto, apple and pecorino cheese. The dough is made with Chiappetti’s favorite secret ingredient: honey. The crust is cooked to crisp perfection, the toppings evenly distributed and sprinkled with generous serving of fresh herbs from the restaurant’s hydroponic garden.
At the bar, you can stick to the long beloved combination of pizza and beer, with a local craft brew. Or, opt for an Italian wine or a boozy cocktail like the Scarlet Harlot (bourbon, amaro, blood orange, brandied cherries) or the Cantanzaro (pepper infused vodka, limoncello, fresh oj, housemade grenadine).
You might also want to unbutton your pants, but we have a feeling it wouldn’t be the first time.
J. Rocco Italian Table and Bar, 749 N Clark Street. For more information call 773-475-0271 or visit online.