News emerged two months ago that chef Todd Stein was leaving Cibo Matto to focus his attention on opening the Florentine, the sophisticated Italian restaurant in the forthcoming JW Marriott hotel. Now, the restaurant is on track to open Nov. 11 and we checked in with Stein and Rodelio Aglibot, the executive corporate chef for the BLT Restaurant Group, which owns the Florentine, to take a peek at the new space. Even though there's still some work to be done, we can tell the room will be gorgeous, light and spacious—with a kick ass view overlooking the Rookery on LaSalle.
The Florentine lives on the second floor, just above the hotel's grand lobby, which we're told utilized much of the original marble. The building itself was designed by Daniel Burnham and many of the elements seem to be incorporated, from the use of light to the wrought iron and glass doors at the entrance to the restaurant.
The marble-topped bar acts as a centerpiece, separating the main dining area from the more casual lounge, and will serve 12 each of bottled and tap beers and 12 signature cocktails (looks like 12 may be their lucky number; what happened to 13?!). The bar/lounge will have a separate menu from the dining room, but both menus will be available throughout the restaurant, which can accommodate 200-plus people, including the private dining rooms.
Across from the bar guests can look into the glass-enclosed 2,000 bottle wine room, while chefs prepare pizza and antipasti in a separate kitchen nook with a pizza oven nearby. The dining room will feature warm reds, coppers, creams and golds throughout. And the brand new kitchen comes with plenty of toys and machinery for the chefs to get giddy during breakfast, lunch and dinner service, including a griddle, pasta station and 10 burners. The menu is close to being finalized, but wasn't ready for the big reveal at press time. Stein did say he would bring a few of his signature dishes that he created at Cibo Matto. Nov. 11 can't come fast enough.