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CS Thinks Formento's Makes Italian Classics New; The Reader On Brass Monkey's Unsuccessful Throwback

Plus Amy Cavanaugh thinks Rural Society is a great steakhouse and Michael Nagrant finds stellar Neapolitan pizza at River North's Pi Gallery Bar.

Marc Much

Lisa Shames thinks Formento’s succeeds in bringing old-world classics up to date. Start with the "tiny in size but not in flavor" Nonna’s Relish Tray, a platter of pesto-topped cubes of beets, sweet potato cannoli, stuffed olives, sweet-and-sour eggplant and radicchio leaves wrapped around orbs of risotto. A "terrific version" of clams casino is the perfect antipasti while housemade bucatini all’amatriciana has a "lovely heat to it, courtesy of the small pieces of ‘nduja." Larger portions include rabbit cacciatore that’s a "wonderful mix of flavors and technique" resulting in a "crisp exterior" and a "tender and moist" interior. A "towering wedge" of chocolate cake ensures the evening ends on a high note. [CS]

While the Brass Monkey channels the spirit of the 70s, Gwynedd Stuart recommends sticking with the half of the menu that "plays it straight" because it "contains better food." Fish styx are a "strong starter" made from "meaty slabs" of Icelandic cod and a dish of pork chop and applesauce is noteworthy as well. Unfortunately, a kitschy meat loaf TV dinner is "texturally off-putting," slathered in a housemade A1 sauce that "dulls the taste buds and is served with peas and mashed potatoes that "could’ve been scooped out of an actual Swanson frozen meal." French pizza bread is equally appalling—featuring "your usual run-of-the-mill" flatbread, doughy and undercooked at that."

Instead, stick with the non-nostalgic dishes like Spanish calamari, made with cuttlefish, and seafood in squid ink linguine filled with shrimps, crabmeat and scallops. Steak frites is a "tender" Angus hanger steak topped with a reduction and at $26 is "one of the few things on the menu that seem[s] fairly priced." For drinks, stick with the classics like an old-fashioned because the "70s cocktails are about as successful as the throwback dishes." [Reader]

Jose Garces’ Rural Society is "not just a great place for Argentine food, it’s a great steakhouse." Amy Cavanaugh says the grill turns out "solid dishes" like a "gorgeous" filet and "perfectly cooked" lobster, lightly smoky and "luxuriating in butter." But the restaurant "really shines" when it "strays from expectations:" thinly sliced octopus is topped with "bright" sundried tomatoes and crunchy Malbec chips while roasted red peppers "get an assist" from salty anchovies and eggplant sauce. Accompanying sides include roasted beets served with olives and an orange coriander vinaigrette, and potatoes with a "velvety" interior and black truffle hollandaise. [TOC]

Pi Gallery Bar is "worth seeking out for the undeniably great pizza," writes Michael Nagrant. The pies are a "great example of what Neapolitan pizza should be: charred, blistered, puffy at the edges, crispy in the middle and smoky from the oak-burning oven." The homemade red sauce is "fiery, thick, well-seasoned and lustrous" while a barbecue sauce is a "great alternative to all the cloying, artificial-tasting" ones you find at other places. The Notorious P.I.G. pie features "luscious" pork belly, diced apple, red onion and a blend of goat and ricotta cheese but the "best combo" is the Oh, Dawn-a breakfast pizza. It’s a "hangover helper" of cream sauce, sausage, fontina, crispy hash browns and a fried egg that’s "the glorious kind of accident that might happen if a Waffle House exploded and landed on Spacca Napoli." [RedEye]


925 West Randolph Street, , IL 60607 (312) 690-7295 Visit Website

Rural Society

455 N. Park Dr., Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 840-6605 Visit Website

Pi Gallery Bar

738 N Clark St Fl 2, Chicago, IL 60654 (315) 285-2712

the Brass Monkey

401 N Morgan St, Chicago, IL 60642 (312) 379-9155