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A Hell's Kitchen castoff cooks up some seafood redemption

In 2009, Tony "Little" D'Alessandro got the boot from Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen for poor performance on the fish station.

A year later, he jumped back on the bull that threw him by opening Big & Little's, a Near North takeout fish shack that serves up righteous seafood made from ingredients he shops for each morning.

The self-taught D'Alessandro and partner Gary "Big" Strauss spiffed up the interior of their no-frills spot with their own four hands, adding a tiny bar (for sipping Jarritos while waiting). D'Alessandro brings a similar bootstrapping ingenuity to the kitchen, which strives for (and achieves) far more than appearances would imply.

Fresh fish-and-chips is two beautifully flaky cod fillets, battered and fried to a crisp, burnished gold. They're served atop mahogany sea-salt-kissed French fries, which aren't so much British-style chips as a riff on Belgian frites ($8).

Just as (sea-) worthy: a taco of sweet, butterflied shrimp halves swaddled by a smoky, freshly griddled corn tortilla with lettuce, tomato and a drizzle of spicy mayo ($3).

Batter-fried tilapia with house-made tartar sauce on a grill-marked bun makes for a satisfying fishwich ($6). Tender grilled or fried squid ($6) comes with a side of fries, cayenne-dusted beets and pineapples or kidney bean salad–all simple, but certainly not typical.

Seems this time around, D'Alessandro's not here to sink, but to swim.

Big & Little's, 860 N. Orleans St.; 312-943-0000 or bigandlittleschicago.com