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Favorite European Cookbooks From Chef Andrew Zimmerman Of Sepia Restaurant In West Loop, Chicago

Think of Andrew Zimmerman as a one-man Mediterranean-American melting pot. The Chicago culinary veteran is now running the show at Sepia–and putting all his past experiences on the menu.

Zimmerman's formative culinary years were spent with an Italian chef in New Jersey. He made his first splash in Chicago as chef of Mod and then of Del Toro, a tapas spot with creative Catalan dishes (and addictive fried chickpeas). Next, he spent nearly two years running the French-inflected NoMI kitchen under Cristophe David.

His takeover of Sepia began in April, and his menu, which stays rooted in Midwest produce while hopping around the globe, is finally in place.

From Spain, you'll find scallops with jamón Serrano and Marcona almonds ($15); from France, house-made pate and rabbit rillettes ($14). And there's a homey Italian porchetta (herb-rubbed pork loin wrapped in pork belly; $24) special on Sundays.

To aid in your own pan-European culinary education, here are three cookbooks that Zimmerman considers indispensable:

Italian: The River Cafe Cookbook by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. "They're British, but it's a great representation of the sentiment of Italian cooking."

Spanish: Catalan Cuisine by Colman Andrews, and French: The Cooking of Southwest France by Paula Wolfert. "Both books represent real cooking of the region–not restaurant cooking–and give you a sense of the place and the people."

Sepia, 123 N. Jefferson St.; 312-441-1920 or sepiachicago.com