This is a pretty busy time for inovasi chef/owner John des Rosiers. Earlier this week he opened his third Wisma shop, this one inside the Chicago French Market, and now he said he'll open Moderno, a modern Italian restaurant, in Highland Park by May.
The 130-seat restaurant took over the space that Rosebud formerly occupied, which closed last year, and is currently undergoing a total gut rehab. Where Rosebud was open and loud, des Rosiers aims to make Moderno more intimate and comfortable through warm antique lights, modern art, a rich color palette and dark woods, much of which will be reclaimed from the previous restaurant.
A new bar area will have about 15 seats at the bar and 25 more around highboy tables. They're building two private dining rooms, for up to 15 and 35 people, respectively, as well as one semi-private exclusive room built into a side cove to seat up to six people. An outdoor patio will seat 120 in warmer months.
Des Rosiers wants to help change the perception of suburban dining. "I think [restaurants] should be better than they are and shouldn't cost as much as they do for what you get," he said. He added that most of the Italian restaurants are American-Italian while Moderno will be more authentic Italian, focusing on ingredients and dishes found throughout Tuscany, Umbria and Abruzzo while also sometimes incorporating a Spanish or possibly Southeast Asian ingredient for a modern touch. "Foundationally we'll be very respectful toward Italian cuisine so the ingredients will shine through," des Rosiers said.
The menu, with most items falling under $20, will be broken up into six categories including Smalls (three-cheese puffed crispy pasta with speck and wild local mint; stuffed calamari with dried tomato and mushroom ragout); To Share (larger entrees meant for more family-style dining like organic pork shoulder and Pinn Oak leg of lamb); and Not to Share (smaller entrees like Q7 Ranch strip steak or wild walleye pike).
Moderno will offer 12 types of pizza cooked on a crispy, razor-thin crust made with Italian flour and cooked in a 900-degree brick oven. Some pizzas: wild morel mushroom, Sicilian white anchovy and, of course, fresh mozzarella with Puglia cherry tomatoes. They'll offer about eight salads with a few more on the lunch menu and a number of housemade pastas (linguini with English peas and pancetta; rigatoni with house sausage and rapini; guitar-cut spaghetti with veal meatballs). What not to expect on the menu? Typically American-Italian dishes like fried calamari, Caesar salad and chicken parmesan.
All the food at Moderno will be made from scratch, the pastas, pizza dough, even gelato using ingredients from local farmers and artisan producers like Meadow Haven Farm, Cook's Ranch, Q7 Ranch and Creminelli for aged salumi.
The wine list will comprise about 200 bottles, with about 30 to 40 glass pours, made up of about 35 percent Italian, 15 percent from France and Spain and the rest New World. Most glass pours will range between $7 and $11 and 75 percent of the bottles, the majority of which will come from small-batch producers, will cost between $35 and $65.
Next week, des Rosiers and his team will embark on a 10-day research trip through Tuscany, Umbria and Abruzzo, where they'll meet with some of their Italian purveyors' families to learn how to make certain family dishes. "We want to be respectful and make sure it is Italian Italian," des Rosiers said.
When Moderno opens this spring, it'll serve lunch and dinner seven days a week. To get a sneak peek at what some of the dishes will look like, check out this video on Moderno's website.
· Wisma Now Officially Open Inside French Market [~EChi~]
· Moderno [website]