Dining

Scurato's Secret

Ceres' Table isn't Italian--but some of its best dishes are

Giuseppe Scurato insists Ceres' Table isn't an Italian restaurant.

The menu of his month-old Uptown restaurant is inspired by his native Italy, his culinary background and, says Scurato, "things I like to eat."

If a label must be pinned, the "modern American" catchall fits best. Scurato has cooked in America for decades--notably as chef of Boka and Landmark--and Ceres's menu jumps from crab Louie to garlic-flecked bouillabaisse. But the dishes that exude the most personality are those linked to his motherland.

Like the hearty strozzapreti pasta; dense strings of fresh, rolled pasta curl around a deliciously woodsy, rough-hewn boar ragù studded with wild mushrooms.

Tripe--when it makes an occasional appearance--shouldn't be missed. Recently, it came dressed in a style Scurato learned from his grandmother, which eschews the traditional Florentine tomato base for subtler, stewy sauce of braising liquid, bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. A new dish is in testing-mode: tender pieces of braised tripe coated with spices and polenta and deep-fried until crisp.

His ode to Italian rice is a dessert home run. Acquerello rice (special aged rice) appears two ways: sweetened and puréed into a sauce, and in a classic rice pudding stirred with crème fraîche and brandy-plumped dried cherries. The garnish, though, is pure Americana, with clusters of Rice Krispies (yes, from the box) bound by dark caramel.

Ceres' Table, 4882 N. Clark St.; 773-878-4882 or cerestable.com

Ceres' Table 4882 N. Clark St. Chicago IL 60640 773-878-4882

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