My first thought as we entered Ferrari was, here we go again, attractive waif thin hostess, gleaming bar with a couple of younger guys in suits pretending not to stare at the pretty bartenderess, reserved looking waitstaff in designer threads straight from 'Guys and Dolls', lots of red and even a Murano chandelier or two for good measure. Fortunately my first impression of all sizzle, no steak or, as they say in Texas, all hat, no cattle, was off base.
MsWiv and I were a few minutes early meeting RevrendAndy so a drink at the bar seemed in order. The bartenderess was not all show and no go, she made a mean drink, even asking, without my prompting, if I would like blue cheese olives in my dirty martini, the answer being yes, of course. She also brought additional blue cheese stuffed olives when she noticed my wife nabbed mine.
While we were at the bar the very personable Marco stopped to chat with us, when we commented on the open kitchen he segued immediately into Versace Charger Plates that are so expensive they have special wiring in the bottom that activates an alarm in the door, no kidding. Well, actually, I was pretty sure Marco was kidding, but he showed us an alarm in the door, told us a story about a well dressed woman setting off the alarm, she contended it had fallen into her purse, and was so convincing I ended up believing him. Though I am not discounting the possibility that plate alarms in the door are the restaurant version of a snipe hunt.
The Rev arrived, which necessitated a bit more conversation with Marco, then off to our table, Versace Charger plates at the ready. As soon as we sat down four, yes four, one more than was in our party, waitstaff converged upon our table with water, bread, menus and and amuse of a thin slice of cucumber with mascarpone whipped with gorgonzola, topped by a baby caper, which alerted our tastebuds to good things to come. There were three kinds of bread, I enjoyed the light Italian bread with a thin crisp crust, Andy felt the tomato was a bit nondescript.
The menu reads well and the specials, which our waiter recited, sounded outstanding. We started with Ferrari's signature appetizer, and Chicago Magazine recommended, Italian Sashimi, call it what you will, sashimi, carpaccio, thin sliced raw fish on a plate, it was wonderful. A large artsy looking platter, decorated beautiful with a tomato rose, held surprisingly generous portions of four types of paper thin fish and three oysters in bent spoon cups. The smoked salmon was served with a horseradish cream, swordfish with crunchy lightly sweet and sour vegetables, Ahi tuna with a tomato, caper, basil oil mix and the scallops, humm, actually, I don't remember what the scallops were served with.
My favorite was the oyster, which obtained a slightly sweet note from the a small cup of reduced balsamic vinegar on the serving plate. Marco came to our table as the Italian Sashimi was served to make sure we ate the oysters in the proper fashion, they were meant to be dipped in the reduced balsamic, which explained the interesting spoon presentation. When we commented on the generous portions to our waiter, he informed this was the standard portion, though they added an extra oyster as there were three of us and oysters are a bit difficult to share. Attention to detail is quite good at Ferrari.
For our second course the three of us split an entree of Tagliatelle with reduced duck sauce, which was delicious. Shreds of flavorful duck in a subtle sauce with the absolute best tagliatelle I have had outside of Italy. The pasta had a tender, yet toothsome texture and an indescribable olive oil goodness about it that really took it over the top. To steal a phrase from Chef Evil Ronnie, the tagliatelle Rocked.
Ellen had an entree of beautifully rare sliced and fanned duck breast served with a light glaze, actually more of a hint than a glaze, of reduced red wine vinegar and honey, served with sauteed vegetables in a fried potato shred basket. Andy's swordfish (fish of the day) was served on a beautiful beet red risotto with, interestingly, four fluffy dauphine type potatoes and a slice of orange.
I had risotto with sausage and baby back ribs though I was expecting links of sausage on top of the risotto, along with the ribs, as opposed to ground sausage incorporated into the risotto. The risotto was quite good, with Marco stopping by out table to make sure our food was accented properly, in my case a flourish of Parmesan. Marco also seemed quite approving of my request for crushed red pepper.
The baby back ribs were interesting, a symphony of flavors, I tasted a bit of anise, Andy thought 5-spice, I also noticed a bit of lemon peel and possibly even pernod. With a last minute glaze before grilling they were quite good, but not something I would order again. In fact, I was a bit sorry I did not order one of the specials of the day, which were wild boar ravioli or pork shank prepared as osco bucco.
Some of the other dishes that sounded quite good were quail sauteed with raisins on a bed of spinach and pancetta, risotto with a ragu of snails and shitake mushrooms and risotto with black squid ink topped with cuttlefish. With our meal we had a 98 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano La Bracesca from Tuscany, which Chicago Magazine recommended, and was quite a nice choice.
I should note that while Marco works the room in a sincere genial style seldom seen anymore, sitting for a moment or two with diners and chatting, enthusiastically greeting each customer, remembering names etc. Everyone in Ferrari is paying attention, even the hostess went from table to table with a pitcher of water when she had a slow moment.
For dessert we shared a rich and creamy chocolate gelato, which Ellen adored, and pears marinated in red wine with mascarpone cream and a chocolate sauce. The mascarpone was light as a feather, though rich in flavor. We were also served a generous portion of small cookies, including one that tasted quite like a chocolate eclair. Coffee, which was excellent, was served in unusual cups that instead of handles had, what appeared to be, angel wings. Awkward as it appeared, the cup was quite easy to handle.
I would venture to say the coffee cup could be used as a metaphor for Ferrari. Though the restaurant, at first blush, seems a bit contrived and designed to please patrons who are more interested in what their dining companions are wearing than what they are eating, that's not the case. Ferrari is for those who enjoy food, and very good food at that.
2360 N Clybourn Ave
Chicago, IL 60614