It's nice to know that a traditional sushi joint can still go head-to-head with the scenesters that have swayed so many sushi preferences from classic to cutting-edge. And classic certainly describes much of Itto Sushi, from the customary (and always appreciated) warm hand towels given at the meal's start to the quiet but omnipresent server ready to take your order.
The sushi chefs take obvious care in their presentation. And, while it may not be the mod wasabi-glazed tempura garnish of sushi-gone-nightclub joints, our plates were simply dressed with cucumber slices, strawberries, cherry tomatoes and a variety of hot sauces. A Chicago maki and nigiri staple since 1982, Itto seems, appropriately enough, like it has spent years pinpointing and perfecting sushi for the urban dwellers palate... and wallet. A 40-item, seafood-heavy appetizer list includes kaiso (seaweed salad), miso and gyoza (dumplings) standards, plus a variety of fried fish (soft-shell crab, smelt and flounder, to name a few). Monkfish liver with ponzu sauce tempts adventurous eaters.
The nigiri menu leans more toward standard favorites; consult the specials board for more exotic offerings. Maki fans will have no shortage of creative combinations to choose from; the hot & cold maki, a spicy California roll with tobiko and unagi (eel) on top, is exceptional. Texas maki, infused with shrimp tempura, cucumbers, jalapeno and mayo, has a spicy kick that's easily swallowed by sushi veterans and no-raw-fish-for-me novices. Maki named for each season are interesting picks as well: the "winter" version was actually baked and topped with cheese. Vegetarians can have their pick of several maki that run less than $4, including shiitake maki and a plum paste version with beefsteak lettuce and cucumbers.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Schwartz