Ah, Venice

Rediscover old favorites at Cicchetti

Cicchetti might be Chicago's best new Italian restaurant.

Chef Michael Sheerin, assisted by superstar sous chefs Sarah Jordan (Boka) and Phil Rubino (Moderno), has created a menu that manages to be both challenging and accessible–kind of like a really old friend who urges you to try a crazy new dish.

Case in point: oysters ($16 for 6). Usually pretty boring, right? But these are flawlessly shucked, presented in an antique toolbox and served with a funky anchovy-laced mignonette that delivers a double-shot of the ocean.

Beef carpaccio ($15) can feel like a lame '90s holdover. Here, it's made with aged hanger steak, tasting of pure essence of cow, and comes topped with sorrel and slices of chewy, dried, roasted cauliflower.

Beyond-tender baby squid ($14) is served with black garlic and enough black pepper to tickle your nose a tiny bit. When combined with the sweetness of polenta and an herbal flash of fresh cilantro, the whole dish comes together flawlessly.

We ended our meal with a fiery glass of grappa (we enjoyed the aged Nardini Reserve) and a "reverse affogato," a twist on the Italian bistro mainstay ($10): Coffee ice cream is doused with malt crème anglaise to create the best dipping sauce for warm cinnamon doughnuts we've ever had.

Editor's note: Cicchetti is now closed.