Last night the parking gods decreed that we should go to Osteria Via Stato. We'd been curious about it after reading a recent newspaper review, so we were happy when a parking spot materialized not far from the place (which is in the old Papagus space in the Embassy Suites Hotel at 620 N. State). LEYE is unusual in that there are some very good restaurants (Shaw's, Everest to name two favorites), and some quite mediocre ones (Scoozi comes to mind). But we were willing to try Rich's latest - especially since this time he's teamed with Rick Tramonto (and another chef from Maggiano's, which we've never eaten at).
The concept is novel - not only is it prix fixe ($35), but you only choose an entree. All the rest, several antipasti and pasta, just arrive at your table at intervals. You can ask for seconds of these, if you wish. Wine and dessert are extra, and there's an upcharge of $16 ($8 each) if you want the Porterhouse for two, and $5 for the filet. There is are three flights of wines available(their selections), at $15, $23, and some higher price, as well as wines by the "quartino" and the "mezzalitro" (sp?). You have two servers, one for beverages, and one for food.
First came a little side dish of olives and another of fresh mozzarella, both swimming in olive oil, with crusty Italian sour-dough bread. Next we were given some sliced smoked salmon that had been marinated in radishes and orange something. Next, a serving of 2 slices of salami topped with celery and parmesan. Then a dollop of arugula mixed with more parmesan. Then a few slices of nicely carmelized onion, baked with yet more parmesan. Of these, only the salmon was disappointing (no discernable salmon taste). We asked for more of the salami (cappaciolla?) and the onion.
Next came two pastas - fettucine with a meat sauce, and penne with cauliflower and spinach. Both tasty, but nothing too special.
Our entrees were the Chicken Mario and the short ribs. The Chicken Mario was a plump breast napped with a light lemony cream sauce - very good - the chicken tasted as if it might have been brined prior to being roasted (very juicy). The short ribs were just the meat (it having fallen off the bone) in a rich wine sauce - excellent.
My husband had the $23 wine flight (reds). This was a real bargain - generous pours, and some quite good wines chosen by our young-lady-in-charge-of-beverages. I had a quartino of an Italian white (forget what it was, but it was good).
For dessert we had the pistachio cake and the burnt caramel gelato. Both were delicious. The hubby had their flight of digestives (interesting) and I had "Chef Tranmonto's Infusions" - grappa (or something) in which pears had been left to macerate (their regular grappas are a tad pricey, though I'm sure they're good). This was good, but I like a real grappa better.
The service was friendly and cheerful. The bill was $160 before tip (a $35 dollar per person prix fixe sounds cheap until you add on all the booze and dessets) The room is not much changed from the time when it was Papagus. We'd go there again.