Rob Levitt is a high-end chef possessed by the ghost of an Italian grandmother. Though he trained at fussy haute spots like 312 Chicago
, Le Titi de Paris
, North Pond
and NYC's Park Avenue Grill, he's more interested in serving up rustic, homestyle fare at this new Bucktown spot. Levitt uses only market-fresh ingredients, butchers whole animals, roasts his meats on a wood grill and makes silky, fresh tagliatelle pasta in a faded New York Yankees cap while listening to the rhapsodic saxophone groove of John Coltrane.
His wife and co-owner, Allison, holds down triple duty as the pastry chef, savory chef and environmental-rights enforcer. A former environmental biology major, she makes sure the restaurant uses green cleaning supplies, serves filtered (not bottled) water and is populated with furniture made from recycled materials. As a sweets maven, she keeps things simple, often augmenting a bowl of ripe fruit with a fresh dollop of whipped cream, or amplifying a single flavor through multiple components, like mixing orange-flavored Moscato wine, orange water and orange zest in a creamy sabayon.
Like the fare, the dining room is a clean, unfussy affair. It's populated with exposed halogen light fixtures, abstract paintings from Rob's father, an onyx pig and an old, wooden farm table that serves as the gathering point for monthly family style meals of whole roasted goose and pig.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant