The former Quiote space is roaring once again, thanks to Aldo Zaninotto. Last month, Zaninotto opened Testaccio in Logan Square. It’s a new Italian restaurant inspired by the Roman neighborhood where the restaurant takes its name, serving a blend of cuisines from Greek, Malta, Turkey, and Morocco. Zaninotto’s background is in wine, but many Chicagoans may know from Osteria Langhe, a well-regarded Italian restaurant specializing in Piedmontese cuisine.
Educating Chicago on the delights of regional Italian food is important to Zaninotto. He wants Americans to know there’s more than Italian-American red sauce. Testaccio has three main components: the main dining room, a basement wine lounge, and a patio that will eventually serve street food out of a food truck parked in the space at 2456 N. California Avenue.
Zaniotto was also inspired by what restaurants like Aba in Fulton Market and Galit in Lincoln Park are doing with Mediterranean flavors. He wants to bring the caliber of restaurant to Logan Square, a neighborhood he’s familiar. He and chef Cameron Grant opened Osteria Langhe in 2014. The two would later open another restaurant, but Animale failed to gain traction in Bucktown. Grant’s a consultant for Testaccio.
As the pandemic pushed back plans to open, Zaniotto worried. He saw the chain restaurants that dominate the National Restaurant Association having a seat at the table, attending meetings at the White House. His wondered if an underdog project like his could prosper.
“Independent restaurants need to be here,” he says.
Chef Jacob Solomon (Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Dusek’s) leads Testaccio’s kitchen. Zaninotto says he instantly meshed with Solomon on creating an accessible menu that makes use of the wood-burning oven left behind by Quiote. Solomon’s opening menu is leans on street food. Street food can be easily enjoyed on the patio, items like spiedini — skewred lamb kefta, swordfish, or steak. Charcuterie is a big part of the restaurant, and they’ll have fresh meats and cheeses to try, along with a trio of spreads (tzatziki, hummus, caponata).
They’ll add more items in the weeks to follow. Zaniotto is keen on Trapizzino, a kind of cone-like combination of a pizza and a sandwich. Solomon talks up a porchetta sandwich and whole-crusted branzino. He wants to make customers feel like they have flexibility for a quick bite, a drink and appetizer, or a heavy meal.
Zaninotto signed a lease in January after his daughter, Arianna, spotted the space. She’s the restaurant’s general manager. The basement bar, which will be called Soif, was once a home to rare mezcal when Quiote was open. It will now take a more French feel. Zaniotto describes it as a speakeasy, but for wine. Zaninotto held on to the idea for Testaccio for a while. In November, he traveled to Rome with Osteria Langhe with Grant and Solomon for a research trip. Testaccio is a neighborhood in Rome that reminds Zaninotto of Logan Square in its diversity. Now he’s bringing the food back to Chicago.
Testaccio, 2456 N. California Avenue, open weekdays 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday; 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Closed Wednesday.