With the opening of Formento's, the new destination for Italian on Restaurant Row in the West Loop, the B. Hospitality Co. team (Balena, The Bristol) has managed the near impossible: creating a restaurant that successfully blends old school with new.
The throwback Italian concept looks the part, with exposed brick walls, vintage art, leather banquettes and a menu of nostalgic favorites inspired by co-owner John Ross's Italian grandmother. That said, the posh edge—particularly in the handsome streamlined bar—doesn't go unnoticed. And we're okay with that, because it reminds us that we're on stylish Randolph Street, not a checkered-tablecloth joint in Little Italy.
Nonna's meatballs and chef Tony Quartaro | Photos: Galdones Photography and Anjali Pinto
The menu has dishes that veer both traditional (classic-to-the-core Nonna's meatballs blanketed in herby marinara sauce, $9) and more modern, like the shareable relish tray ($17), a petite serving platter laden with tiny sweet potato cannoli as delicate as they are tasty, bite-size Ligurian beets, stuffed radicchio and more.
Entrées range from a boneless quail saltimbocca with prosciutto, sage, hazelnut and smoked cauliflower ($29) to a 16-ounce veal tomahawk smothered in mushrooms, Marsala and Taleggio ($47), along with six stick-to-your-ribs pastas. Go for the comforting rigatoni alla vodka ($16), which has a welcome kick of peppery heat, along with salty pancetta, tomato and creamy mascarpone cheese. Don't shy away from the garlic bread ($5) as a sopping vessel.
Desserts range from big to monstrous, including an astonishingly tall (10 tiers!) chocolate layer cake ($11). But if you're too stuffed to go all in, treats like rich chocolate truffles come gratis with the bill, a sweet closing note for a deeply satisfying meal.
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