Bar Toma Italian Restaurant | Chicago, IL

Seafaring meatballs and other highlights from Bar Toma

A well-executed meatball is one of a carnivore's finest delights.

Bar Toma, then, is home to a great rarity: a pescetarian meatball with the trappings, and satisfaction level, of the classic pork-and-beef blend.

We've returned to the new Mag Mile restaurant again and again for charred-carrot salad with Capriole goat cheese and balsamico ($9), and toasted Toma cheese, a soft, blistered Italian cow's-milk treat topped with lemon marmalata ($7). But the dish we can't get off our mind (or stop ordering) is the rock shrimp polpette ($15), chef Tony Mantuano's inspired version of a meaty standard.

"The dish is in the tradition of Southern Italy," says the chef, of Spiaggia fame, "with seafood, tomato and a touch of spice." Mantuano grinds some of the shrimp along with milk-soaked bread, and chops the rest. The result is a light, moist, flavorful orb, served with crisped shallots and chile-touched tomato sauce.

To make the dish at home (click here to see the recipe), buy rock shrimp, which are softer and juicier than their larger brethren. San Marzano tomatoes are Mantuano's sauce base of choice.

Or eat it at the restaurant, with one of 14 flavors of gelati for dessert. 

Bar Toma, 110 E. Pearson St.; 312-266-3110 or