8 new Chicago restaurants with debut by Black-Italian chef – Chicago Tribune
A new restaurant in Chicago is challenging convention.
“If we had to put a label on it, we would say that we’re Creole-Italian fusion,” said Jourdan Higgs, chef and co-owner at Provaré.
He and business partner Michael Williams just opened their debut joint venture Sept. 10 in West Town.
“As Black owners, we wanted to do something different,” Higgs said. “And myself, I’m 25% Italian.” His maternal grandfather was from Sicily.
One of the signature dishes uses a specific brand of cognac well-known in contemporary culture.
Shrimp scampi ($26) uses Hennessy instead of white wine, “as a way to add additional flavor,” Higgs said. He places jumbo shrimp on house-made pasta bejeweled with cherry tomatoes and shallots in a cream sauce spiked with Fresno chiles.
Bold flavors and liberal seasoning underscore his food philosophy, inspired by many trips to New Orleans.
“I’ve literally just flown out there just so I can get something to eat and come right back within 24 hours,” Higgs said.
He’s a self-taught chef who has catered for celebrities and artists such as Chicago rapper Dreezy and her family. This is the first restaurant for both owners.
“I was working for a cellular company in their corporate office,” Higgs said. “With everything that happened — that’s still currently happening — with a pandemic, I just started realizing that it wasn’t something that I was interested in continuing to do.” His business partner owns an insurance agency.
As for the restaurant’s name, “one of the things that it means is ‘to try’ in Italian,” Higgs said.
The full bar features house special cocktails that shout out the city with spirits.
“When customers come in, we give them a little sample of our house rum punch,” Higgs said. “We call it the Chicago Avenue.”
“We have the Chicago Avenue, the Fulton, the West Town, the Mag Mile, the MLK, the Madison and Pulaski, State Street, the Stony and the Ashland,” he added. “We thought it would be a nice little spin to connect our restaurant with more of Chicago than just the area we’re in.”
They offer vegan and nut-free options, but no desserts yet.
“When we had our soft opening, we had beignets with whipped ricotta finished off with a Foster sauce,” Higgs said. “But a lot of our beignets weren’t rising, so we’ve got to see what’s going on with our recipe.”
Black People Eats founder Jeremy Joyce showcased the dessert on his visit, so let’s hope those beignets return.
1421 W. Chicago Ave., 312-988-0943, provarechicago.com
Chef Lee Wolen opened what the Boka Restaurant Group calls a neighborhood Italian restaurant. It’s big and fanciful and located in West Loop Gate. Alla Vita started service Sept. 13 with house-made pasta and pizza. They’ve transformed the space that was last Bellemore, and previously Embeya.
Cocktails include a nonalcoholic No-groni ($14) with citrus, bitter and floral notes. Look for mushroom pizza ($21) topped with black truffle, caramelized onion, and funky taleggio cheese. Pastry chef Kim Mok makes a Nutella sundae ($12) with her own house-made Nutella gelato, cocoa streusel, caramelized hazelnuts and whipped cream, all topped by Amarena cherries.
564 W. Randolph St., 312-667-0104, allavitachicago.com
A new fine-dining Italian storefront restaurant has quietly moved into a little pocket of town that was once one of the historic Little Italy neighborhoods of Chicago. Elina’s opened Sept. 10 in West Town, next door to Vinnies Sub Shop, and two doors from the old hardware store. Chefs and owners Ian Rusnak and Eric Safin both established their culinary credentials while cooking in New York City, but the former was also the culinary director at Hogsalt, the restaurant group behind Au Cheval, Bavette’s and more. Menu highlights include mozzarella en carrozza ($8), a fried cheese sandwich; lasagna rotolo ($30) with “Sunday Gravy”; and Vesuvio potatoes ($8).
1202 W. Grand Ave., 312-929-2249, elinaschicago.com
The intriguing Noble Thai has started takeout only so far in West Town. Chef Roognapha Prakobkit, previously at Opart Thai for about 20 years, is making traditional Thai dishes for the modern restaurant opened Sept. 9 by owner Jay Lin, partner at Tensuke Market. Try their Tiger Cry ($12.95), sua rong hai, the classic dish also known as crying tiger, with charbroiled marinated beef and house-made chile sauce; gaeng pet ped ($13.95), red curry with roasted duck, pineapple, tomato and coconut milk; and mango sticky rice ($7.95), only available in season.
1371 W. Chicago Ave., 312-846-1867, noblethai.com
The former Masa Azul space has become a new Mexican restaurant in Logan Square. Chef Carlos Gonzalez, previously at La Luna in Pilsen, opened Sept. 16, and is serving dinner daily and weekend brunch at the debut business by owner Areerat Potikul. They’re offering elote ($8) with microgreens, tinga tacos ($4) with smoked chicken thighs, and quesabirria y consommé ($19 for an order of four beef quesadillas).
2901 W. Diversey Ave., 773-799-8533, ocasotacobar.com
Veteran chef Jason Paskewitz brings a bistro from a Right Bank Parisian arrondissement to Winnetka. Pomeroy opened in the North Shore suburb Sept. 2, from Ballyhoo Hospitality. You’ll find a kids menu with a Junior Royale ($12) cheeseburger and fries, to the main dinner menu with Le Grand Plateau de Fruits de Mer ($245) — an abundance of oysters and shellfish — plus plats du jour, including a Saturday special for two of Chateaubriand for $112.
844 Spruce St., Winnetka; 847-999-3090; pomeroywinnetka.com
A pizzeria with a purpose managed to open despite early opposition from neighbors. Poppy’s Social celebrated its grand opening Sept. 10 in Glencoe. Founder Pete Kadens was inspired by Monday night pizza nights and family philanthropy; staff are paid a livable wage with health insurance, and some have been involved in the justice system. They make a caramelized-crust pizza, including The Chi-Town with sausage ($19 for 12-inch, $26 for 14-inch, $18 for gluten-free 10-inch), plus a “Texas-sized” chicken parm sandwich ($14) and, for dessert, Twinkies bites ($7) dipped in funnel cake batter then deep-fried and finished with chocolate and caramel sauce.
668 Vernon Ave., Glencoe; 847-996-9330; poppys.social
From the owner of Beard Papa’s in Chicago, home of coveted Japanese cream puffs, comes a burger joint. SALT burgers + fries grinds its own beef in-house before smashing it into griddled patties. Hassan Jaffrani opened it Sept. 10, transforming his former Bucktown location of I Dream of Falafel connected to the bakery. You’ll find a double cheeseburger ($8 for beef, $7.75 for Impossible); SALT fries with cheese, grilled onions, SALT sauce and hot peppers ($3.75); and Fuego onion rings ($3.65) dusted with a ghost pepper blend.
1920 W. North Ave., 312-786-5929, saltchicago.com
Once again pouring the rarest of spirits, Milk Room, the big-ticket, eight-seat cocktail bar in the Chicago Athletic Association hotel, reopened Sept. 10.
12 S. Michigan Ave., 844-312-2221, lsdatcaa.com/milk-room
Know of a Chicago-area restaurant that’s new and notable? Email food critic Louisa Chu at [email protected].
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