The Best Pastas And More At Charlatan In Noble Square | Tasting Table CHI

Charlatan's no phony when it comes to real-deal Italian fare

Charlatan, n: A person falsely claiming to have a special knowledge or skill; a fraud.

Spend one minute in the cozy confines of Charlatan, the new kid on Noble Square's dining-out block, and the restaurant quickly diverges from its namesake. With its effortlessly cool atmosphere, interspersed with game taxidermy, kitschy vintage wallpaper and chain-metal curtains, Charlatan is the real deal. And despite what its name implies, the kitchen is turning out the food to prove it.

Chef/partner Matt Troost's menu mixes traditional Italian comfort food with modern Midwestern farm fare, a fusion we didn't even know we'd been craving. Forget appetizers and mains—headers like "salt + time" and "rolled + extruded" create the framework for Troost's ambitious menu.

Focaccia and beech mushroom conserva

Despite falling near the end of the menu, the focaccia ($3) is actually a crucial starting point. Flavors vary daily, but you can always expect a crisp, flaky crust dusted with flaky Maldon sea salt, an airy crumb and a hefty side of roasted garlic compound butter. Pair it with the whiskey-based Dehumanizer ($10), a potent cocktail made with Rittenhouse Rye 100, Botran Reserva, Amaro Montenegro and grapefruit, to really get things started.

The prosciutto with gnocchi fritto and butternut squash butter ($7) and the farro salad tossed with roasted kuri squash, smoky charred scallions, arugula, mint, lemon and olive oil ($9) are both balanced but ultimately outshined by the eclectic and generally excellent pasta dishes. Rabbit casoncelli ($9 half, $16 full) is both sweet and savory, thanks to golden raisins, herbaceous sage brown butter and earthy chanterelles, and the perfectly al dente black pepper rigatoni, smothered in a wild boar ragu, Parmesan cheese and Brussels sprouts leaves ($9 half, $16 full), is as rich and comforting as your imaginary Tuscan nonna's home cooking.

The only error of note—and, yes, it's nitpicky—comes with dessert: The ratio of zeppole ($8) to Old Crow-enhanced hot fudge was so disproportionate that after drowning every single zeppole in chocolate, there was still a massive pool of it left over. If the restaurant had scaled back on the sauce, its gently sweet, boozy dessert would've been a home run and a perfect close to a meal that exceeded our expectations in just about every way.