I have a secret. I don’t want to tell you but I HAVE to share it because the people I dined with yesterday told me so. It would be selfish to hide such a gem from my Beauties. It’s a restaurant in Chicago that is flying way under the radar and I can’t figure out why. I passed it months ago on my way to another place nearby. At the time, I tried to peak in or find a menu posted on the door and vowed to investigate another time. That time was yesterday after I was invited to meet with an Italian importer for lunch.
Pelago Ristorante is tucked behind the lobby of the Hotel Raffaello on Delaware and Mies Vander Rohe Way. (Figure behind the John Hancock building) It’s been there for over a year but evaded the hyped-up “new restaurant” scene in favor of building a strong clientele through solid Italian food. Yet, people still haven’t heard about it hidden away in the Gold Coast. Chef Mauro Mafrici is from Italy and came to Chicago by way of New York. He and his architect-wife gave up the Big Apple to start their family business in our Windy City. Lucky us. His speciality is the homemade pasta and seafood. I was able to sample four pastas and three fish specials that were delicious. Having studied in Florence long ago, I couldn’t help but mention to my fellow diners that Pelago is the closest thing to Italy I’ve tasted in Chicago. I was excited to be introduced to a new place off the grid yet right under my nose. This upscale, elegant restaurant is the real thing. It’s about very few ingredients, a true indicator of classic Italian cuisine. Take for example, the Gemelli Pesto. You don’t get more simple than pesto but Chef Marfici had an exquisite balance of the components that go into this dish. Too often, food is inflated with flavors taking away from the origin of an uncomplicated dish. I really had to pace myself otherwise, I would have inhaled my meal in front of the other guests, not pretty. The space itself is beautiful, designed with modern details and classic still-life artwork. I left knowing I would be back often. And I look forward to cooking with the chef soon.
Dine for yourself:
201 E. Delaware, Chicago