La Fournette Opens In Old Town - Chicago

The colorful macarons have superbly crackling shells. The croissant's tawny exterior is all flake, its interior airy with the right amount of chew. The sound of French conversation fills the space.

Yes, Old Town's new La Fournette is the real deal.

Fourth-generation baker Pierre Zimmerman ran his family's bakery in Alsace for 20 years, frequently visiting Chicago to teach at the French Pastry School. Two years ago, he made the permanent move; last month, he opened La Fournette with two colleagues from the pastry school.

Cases are filled with brioche ($3), crumbly and superb Sablé Breton cookies ($2), and house-made spreads in flavors like apricot-vanilla ($7.50) and salted caramel ($8.50). Nearly a dozen types of bread line the wall, including the excellent Miche La Fournette ($7), a flavorful sourdough loaf fermented for more than 24 hours.

There are sweet crêpes for breakfast, and sandwiches, soups and salads for lunch. Baguettes are the base of rillettes and pâté sandwiches ($10), and a makeshift tarte flambée ($5.50). The bakery serves a stand-up gazpacho ($5), too, heavy on the garlic and served with a drizzle of fruity olive oil and olive-oil-toasted breadcrumbs.

Next time a bout of Francophilia hits, we know where to go.

La Fournette, 1547 N. Wells St.; 312-624-9430 or