Scurato's Secret

Ceres' Table isn't Italian--but some of its best dishes are

Giuseppe Scurato insists Ceres' Table isn't an Italian restaurant.

The menu of his month-old Uptown restaurant is inspired by his native Italy, his culinary background and, says Scurato, "things I like to eat."

If a label must be pinned, the "modern American" catchall fits best. Scurato has cooked in America for decades–notably as chef of Boka and Landmark–and Ceres's menu jumps from crab Louie to garlic-flecked bouillabaisse. But the dishes that exude the most personality are those linked to his motherland.

Like the hearty strozzapreti pasta; dense strings of fresh, rolled pasta curl around a deliciously woodsy, rough-hewn boar ragù studded with wild mushrooms.

Tripe–when it makes an occasional appearance–shouldn't be missed. Recently, it came dressed in a style Scurato learned from his grandmother, which eschews the traditional Florentine tomato base for subtler, stewy sauce of braising liquid, bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. A new dish is in testing-mode: tender pieces of braised tripe coated with spices and polenta and deep-fried until crisp.

His ode to Italian rice is a dessert home run. Acquerello rice (special aged rice) appears two ways: sweetened and puréed into a sauce, and in a classic rice pudding stirred with crème fraîche and brandy-plumped dried cherries. The garnish, though, is pure Americana, with clusters of Rice Krispies (yes, from the box) bound by dark caramel.

Ceres' Table, 4882 N. Clark St.; 773-878-4882 or cerestable.com