Cicchetti proves its culinary cred during Restaurant Week

Phil Vettel checks out Cicchetti on day one of Chicago Restaurant Week

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Chicago Restaurant Week kicked off Friday with more than 300 participating city and suburban restaurants, including a lot of well-known faces and a few brand new ones.

Cicchetti, barely a month old, is a new face worth getting to know. Opened by Dan Rosenthal (Trattoria No. 10) and featuring chef Mike Sheerin (ex-Blackbird, The Trenchermen) and acclaimed pastry chef Sarah Jordan (Blackbird, Boka). That's a lot of culinary cred, and it shows in the dishes the restaurants are offering on their Restaurant Week lunch and dinner menus.

Lunch begins with a wok-shaped pan filled with pork cracklings — pork skin that's been dehydrated and crisped, dusted with white parmesan powder and flecked with rosemary. Think of these addictive nibbles as gourmet Cheetos.

Among the next-course choices are a beautiful salad of prosciutto, arugula and sweet potatoes with a pumpkin salsa verde, and a rustic dish of meatballs in a pancetta-enriched tomato sauce. (Both of these dishes also appear on Cicchetti's four-course, $44 dinner menu.)

Finish with one of five third-course selections, among them a light but full-flavored leek, potato and fontina frittata with a side salad. I'd direct fuller appetites toward the pork-shoulder and provolone panino, which gets extra richness from a sunny-side fried egg. It's a messy dish to eat, but very satisfying.

Sarah Jordan's desserts, which are a la carte during lunch but included as the fourth course on the dinner menu, include a nifty sweet she calls a “reverse affogato”: instead of hot espresso poured over vanilla ice cream, Jordan takes coffee ice cream and drowns it in warm creme anglaise, with a few small house-made doughnuts for good measure. Fun stuff.

Chicago Restaurant Week features restaurants offering value-priced, three-course lunches ($22) and three- and four-course dinners ($33, $44). Chicago Restaurant Week runs through Feb. 6.

pvettel@tribune.com
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