Nostrano Italian Restaurant | Madison

Two Chicago favorites decamp to Madison

Tim and Elizabeth Dahl have a food-world storybook romance. The former pastry chefs of top Chicago restaurants (Blackbird and Boka, respectively) have recently started a family and opened a restaurant of their own.

The only downside–for Chicago diners, at least–is that their restaurant, Nostrano, is in Madison.

It's worth the trip. Inspired by their love of Italy, the pair has built a menu rooted in local agriculture and full of the refinements you'd expect with their pedigree.

From the savory side, Tim cooks dishes whose simple appearance belies layers of flavor–like a roasted Brussels sprout salad ($11), a sweet, salty mound of farro, raisins and house-cured guanciale laced with Crimson grape vinegar and topped with fried Brussels sprout leaves.

His bowl of whole-wheat pappardelle ($18) references Southern Italy's position as a cultural crossroads, with a complex sauce of cumin- and cinnamon-scented lamb ragù, preserved lemons and mint.

Elizabeth crafts the desserts and the excellent ciabatta that accompanies house-made charcuterie ($17) and brodetto ($17), Italy's bouillabaisse. Match the meal with quartinos of wine or barrel-aged Negronis from barman Chad Vogel, and finish with an affogato flanked by cornmeal doughnuts ($9).

For a weekend excursion, visit the Dane County farmers' market; eat brunch at Tori Miller's casual new restaurant, Graze; and stay at The Speckled Hen Inn, a five-room bed-and-breakfast just outside Madison.

Nostrano, 111 S. Hamilton St., Madison; 608-395-3295 or