The novelty of a new cocktail lounge may be wearing off in Chicago, but Otto Mezzo’s Italian spin hopes to rejuvenate the genre when it opens tonight in River North. Rockit Ranch Productions, led by co-founder Billy Dec and chef/partner Kevin Hickey (The Duck Inn), have retained the space where the group ran Ay Chiwowa, their short-lived Mexican bar at 311 W. Chicago Ave. (and it’s 4 a.m. liquor license). They hope to spotlight different regions in Italy with 10 signature cocktails.
The main event is the booze, with Italian brandies and other spirits by beverage stalwart Brandon Phillips. The drink list starts with an accessible negroni serving as a gateway to make guests feel more comfortable as they explore. A biscotti sour uses grappa, bitter almond and egg whites to remind drinkers of the pastry. Guests should enjoy ordering the “Dolemite Don’t Need No Posse” (Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, Nonino Amaro Quintessentia, Braulio Amaro Alpino, Zirbenz Stone Pine, Weatherby’s orange saffron bitters). It’s a fun name to say—try it.
Read the full menu below. The food offerings aren’t expansive, but 65-seat Otto Mezzo is serving a daily pasta including pork neck ragu on Sundays. There’s also a variety of panini. Homemade gelato stars as the only dessert option.
Many bartenders at cocktail bars wish patrons ordered more wine, and Otto Mezzo will give guests ample opportunity. Almost all the wines are available by the glass or bottle. Rare selections have the option of a 2-ounce pours. That way guests can taste wine like the Tenuta San Guido “Sassicaia” Bolgheri DOC. A bottle will cost $395, while a mini pour costs $35.
Beer drinkers wanting to expand their horizons may also have a new destination. While hop heads rightfully rave about the exciting beers made at nearby breweries and those all over the Midwest, Otto Mezzo offers rare Italian beers on draft. That includes Del Ducato’s Oud Brunello, a 7-percent ABV collaboration with Portland, Maine’s Oxbow Beer. It’s a Flemish sour aged in Brunello red wine barrels. There’s also a tidy reserve collection.
Dec has been searching for the right idea to occupy his River North space and he turned to Hickey for inspiration. Will the team be successful? Check out the menu below, as Otto Mezzo opens tonight.
Otto Mezzo, 311 W. Chicago Ave., open 8:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday; 8:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Saturday.