Pizza may be the most notable of Italy's tomato-bread concoctions, but panzanella (tomato-bread salad) is certainly the most summery.
In the tradition of all great rustic food, panzanella turns the humblest of ingredients--stale bread, tomatoes, basil, oil and vinegar--into something sublime. Of course, Piccolo Sogno's version isn't exactly modest.
To create his fancified interpretation, chef Tony Priolo adds celery, cucumbers, scallions and Tropea onions from Green Acres Farm to multicolored heirloom tomatoes, basil and day-old sourdough wheat bread made in-house, then dresses the salad with red wine vinegar and specially bottled private-label Tuscan olive oil.
The dish ($9) is best enjoyed on the restaurant's stunning tree-lined back patio--arguably the city's prettiest--with a crisp white from the all-Italian wine list, like the dry, floral Falanghina Falerno Bianco from Campania ($40). Wood-fired pizzas, like spek e fichi, with smoked prosciutto, pesto and figs ($14), and whole roasted fish, dressed simply in orange, roasted fennel and olive oil (MP), are ideal follow-ups.
But if you can't score a prime-time reservation at Priolo's perpetually busy one-year-old restaurant, consider your own patio as an alternative. The main panzanella ingredients are in prime form at the Green City Market, making it the perfect time to try this simple Italian salad at home (click here to download the recipe).
Piccolo Sogno, 464 N. Halsted St.; 312-421-0077 or piccolosognorestaurant.com
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