Back in January this year, my husband and I were having dinner with some really good friends, when suddenly my husband suggested “why not go to Nico’s next time”. My immediate response was “what is the occasion” collectively, there was a united response of “why do we need an occasion”. Everyone was right of course. Now and again it is not only fun but healthy and necessary to get a little dressed up and go out for a fun night to one of the best restaurants in the city of Chicago. I realized a specific occasion was not necessary. The desire to be together, enjoy each others company with great food and drink in a fantastic environment is the occasion.
On February 28th we kept this date and went for an evening at Nico’s.
Nico Osteria is located in the lobby of the Thompson hotel in the Gold Coast, downtown Chicago.This restaurant is one of my favorite places to eat in Chicago. I like everything about this restaurant and bar, the food, the design, the atmosphere. The bar area is called Salone Nico. I would best describe the interior design as a cross between 70’s decor and gentlemen’s club. The velvet seating, the low vintage lighting, the wall of flowers and the flash of green light across the bar gives a soothing comfortable environment with a speck of razzmatazz. On this night the bar was not too busy therefore we were able to sit in a nook, a two seat cutout in the wall where even though I was completely visible to everyone in the bar area it was still easy to sit back and feel anonymous.
The restaurant is an L shaped space, with wood tiled floors and exposed ceiling beams. Along the entire glass wall there are booths. This is were I like to sit when I go with friends. I like the contrast of feeling intimate and private with people on my table but also having the option to look out the window at any time and see and feel the action and energy of the busy street outside. When I go to Nico’s with only one other person my favorite place to sit is near the kitchen at the chefs counter in front of the crudo bar. I find it inspiring to watch as the skilled chef slices the raw fish and garnishes with different sauces and condiments. The dishes are beautifully put together.
I started the meal with Burrata al Tartufo a great combination of beets, carrots, parsnips, burrata cheese and warm sherry vinaigrette. It was an unusual combination and while I enjoyed the dish I prefer the classic burrata with sweet tomatoes-for me the cheese and the tomatoes compliment each other better.
My main course was stuffed pappardelle-this is one of the best pasta dishes I have ever eaten.The housemade pasta is exactly what I want pasta to be, butter soft and melting, not chewy. The stuffing of milk braised pork, carrot and black truffle was unexpected and extremely delicious. For dessert I stuck with the theme of simplicity and ordered a house made chocolate ice-cream, over which I poured my expresso, thereby creating my own affogato.
As always when we go out to a good restaurant with good friends a great night was had by all.There was a lot of eating, drinking and merriment. I can’t wait to do it again, no occasion needed.
Nico Osteria, 1015 N Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611 www.nicoosteria.com