When I knew I would be accompanying my husband on a business trip to Chicago, the first person I thought of finally having a chance to meet was Marie, of the Proud Italian Cook blog. I discovered Marie's blog almost five years ago, when I first began blogging myself, and have followed her posts faithfully since. Her recipes began as traditional Italian cuisine favorites but have evolved over the years with a focus on more healthy prepared recipes with an Italian flare. Marie works wonders with vegetables of all kinds, yet she still treats us all with spectacular dessert recipes, now and then, as you can see from her recent Chocolate Ricotta Tart recipe!
The day my husband was scheduled to go to a Chicago Cubs baseball game with his co-workers, Marie and her friend Mary-Alice met me at our hotel and we then walked over to Quartino Ristorante Pizzaria and Wine Bar located at 626 North State Street, Chicago, Illinois. Both Marie and Mary-Alice had read rave reviews about Quartino and wanted to try it, over my initial suggestion that we go for Chicago style deep dish pizza. I'm so glad we made this decision!
The restaurant had a wonderful old world European flare, and it would have been wonderful to sit outside for our repast and enjoy the sights and sounds of Chicago, but the unusual high eighties and humid temperatures of that day made us decide to go inside for the air conditioning.
The upstairs dining room.
The inside of the restaurant was quiet and cool and very conducive to conversation.
Seeing the Salumeria (Italian cold cuts) counter on the main floor and the delicious home made bread on display made my mouth salivate, and I knew we were going to have a delicious lunch!
Quartino's specialty is authentic Neapolitan thin crust stone oven pizza, homemade fresh pasta and seasonally prepared specialties served in small plates and meant to be shared. They also offer a gluten free menu and have an extensive wine list.
A portion of the menu (you can double click on it to enlarge the photo)
We decided to share the special "Salumeria Tasting" selection where you get to chose from a selection of two Salumi, two Formaggi (cheese) and three Spuntini (snacks). We choose prosciutto, spicy sopressata, Asiago and sweet Gorgonzola cheese, roasted peppers, marinated artichokes, eggplant caponata, which was served with an assortment of olives, bread and condiments.
Our pizza choice was roasted portobello mushrooms and crushed fresh tomatoes.
Everything was expertly prepared, very authentic and delicious! It was the perfect portions for lunch and we were able to fill our dishes a few times as we shared the wonderful food along with our long and happy conversation. We shared a few good chuckles about our regional accents and Marie and Mary-Alice especially loved the way I pronounce coffee as "caw-fee," with my undeniably Brooklyn accent! It felt as if we have been friends forever.
Our waiter, Josh, was very attentive and knowledgeable, and made us feel welcomed and unrushed the entire meal.
Josh took a somewhat blurry photo of the three of us with my camera, but as I have been suffering with a corneal scratch of my right eye, and my eye has been somewhat swollen for a few weeks, I think I'm fine with a blurry photo and I was honestly happy that I did not have to cancel the trip altogether, as I first feared when I injured my eye. Marie is standing on the right and Mary-Alice is seated.
We were going to order "Zeppoles" for dessert, which are fried donut like pastry, but Josh suggested the Apple Fritters -- an excellent choice! Because we also mentioned a desire for something chocolate he surprised us with this heavenly chocolate molten cake .....
...served with a large dollop of vanilla gelato!
When Mary-Alice and I mentioned to Josh that Marie was a food blogger, and had been named by the Chicago Tribune as one of their favorite food blogs, the manager came out to greet us and also the executive chef, John Colleta, who is also the author of a pasta dishes cookbook.
It was also a thrill to see a framed Chef Colleta's chef's jacket autographed by Julia Child in the restaurant lobby.
Marie gifted me with a bag full of her wonderful fig and pistachio biscotti, which my husband and I devoured with gusto the next morning as breakfast. I gave her a copy of the newly published "My Calabria --Rustic Family Cooking from Italy's Undiscovered South" as I think she will enjoy the very flavorful recipes and preservation techniques that the author covers in the book as much as I have, and I look forward to seeing some of her interpretations of the recipes in this book on her blog one day!
If you love Italian food (and who doesn't?) you will love both the Proud Italian Cook blog , and Quartino Ristorante in Chicago!
I'm linking up this post on Michael Lee's blog Designs With Gollum for her wonderful "Foodie Friday" event! Lots of wonderful recipes, food events and restaurants from around the country are shared there so please drop by Michael's blog!