Christmas came early.
The biggest restaurant opening of the year just happened.
Nico Osteria, a paradise of pasta, imported wines, and fresh seafood from Paul Kahan’s One Off Hospitality just changed the Italian food game in Chicago.
From the guys responsible for The Publican, Avec, and Blackbird comes the Thompson Hotel's new restaurant with a glowing golden bar located below a living wall of plants. Nearby, the dining room tables in front of the open kitchen will be more in-demand this holiday season than anything Xbox One-related.
Once you do snag a table, dive into plates of crudo, from big eye tuna with ice wine vinegar to needle fish with lemon balm.
Then comes the dish everyone will be obsessing over: lobster spaghetti. What you can imagine: housemade noodles served in a rich red sauce. What you can't even fathom: those noodles tossed with fresh lobster meat, then served back in the lobster shell.
Finish with more seafood or switch to pork belly ragu or grilled farm chicken. Or just dive into house cocktails focused on high-end Italian amaros and vermouths. The weather dictates you go with a Snowbird (Luxardo Apertivio, gin and vermouth shaken with fresh citrus, and a touch of soda).
For dessert, choose Italian gelato topped with a choice of espresso, chocolate, or burnt honey.
Artisanally, expertly burnt honey, that is.
Price: 3 (out of 4)
Noise: 3 (out of 4)
Subway: Red Line to Clark and Division
Scene: Frantic foodies checking out the year's hottest hot spot as well as hotel guests dipping in for a drink
Best bets: Daily crudo; lobster spaghetti; pork belly ragu
Nearby: Luxbar; Gibson's; Hugo's
Photo courtesy Fogelson/Jetel