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Beard-Nominated Chef Breathes Life Into New Restaurant/Gallery Hybrid

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Helmed by Dominic Zumpano, The Cotton Duck is ready to open soon.

The Cotton Duck
The Cotton Duck
Courtesy of Dominic Zumpano
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

The common thread between visual art and cooking is one that will be explored at The Cotton Duck, a new restaurant/art gallery hybrid opening soon in East Village. Co-owner chef Dominic Zumpano seeks to take inspiration from artists when crafting menus that will rotate with each exhibit. For example, if an artist's exhibit is titled "Nature of the Beasts," expect a menu that's focused on meats.

Zumpano's business partner, Cecilia Lanyon, is an art gallery owner in suburban Lake Forest. The pair met while working at Markethouse, also in the North Shore, and have been working on the idea for The Cotton Duck for about a year and half. DNAinfo first reported the project at 939 N. Damen Ave., behind Bricola.

Zumpano earned a 2009 nomination by the James Beard Foundation as "Best Chef: Midwest" for his work at Umami Moto in Milwaukee. He had been in suburban Highwood, working at PM Prime as chef before the restaurant closed last month. Zumpano called this latest venture a culmination of his 20 years learning in the business.

The exhibits will rotate about every three months and the art, like the food, will be seasonal. Don't expect paintings with light-colored landscapes in the dead of Chicago's dreary winters. It's quite an unorthodox move for the chef, but he's ready.

"It's going to be, I hate to give generic terms — contemporary American," Zumpano said. "It's kind of the baseline. It's not going to be anything out of control, but it's going to be about the dishes themselves; the big flavors kind of depicted in the paintings."

The Cotton Duck is BYO and will initially serve dinner and expand to weekend brunch. There's about 40 seats inside with 20 outdoors. When the kitchen isn't open, patrons can browse the art gallery side. Renee McGinis is the opening artist. She paints with a maritime theme, so expect seafood on the opening menu. Zumpano and Laynon have ideas for who will follow, but for now, they want to see how The Cotton Duck is received.


937 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (773) 772-0889 Visit Website