Pane Caldo Review – a feast for the all the senses

www.pane-caldo.com

Translated literally, pane caldo means warm bread.  Now take that image of warmth, the staff of life and the comforting, nurturing emotions all that stirs in you and you’ll have a sense of the ambiance of Pane Caldo

First there’s the soothing décor.

The elegant ambience


Terra cotta walls with a deep, rich blue ceiling, fresh flowers, elegant china, linen, stemware and soft jazz, combine to create a welcoming, intimate atmosphere. Despite it’s location just off bustling Michigan Avenue,  Pane Caldo has the feel of a tucked-away retreat— a special place for a special occasion.

Our very professional and capable server, Michael Curtin, made us feel right at home even though it was our first visit.

Our Server, Michael Curtin


The menu-- French-influenced Italian cuisine--changes daily to capitalize on seasonal fresh ingredients. And the extensive, internationally recognized wine list presents over 1,200 different selections of wines from around the world to complement every course. You’ll see…

We chose the “Chef Special 6-Course Sequence” and let the chef-owner, Maurice Bonhomme, surprise us.  The manager-sommelier, did a fair amount of that, too!  We don’t eat red meat, so that was our only proviso. But since both the 4 and 6-course menus are available with a vegetarian option and all the stocks are vegetarian, we knew he could accommodate us.

ANTIPASTI

Of course we started our meal with crisp, warm bread and bread sticks (baked at Pane Caldo, where else?) and a rich, walnut-laced black olive tapinade and fresh bruschetta to spread on our bread.  To celebrate Venetian Night, our first surprise was glasses of Prosecco, the sparkling wine Venetians consider an ideal apperitivo or ombrette (pick-me-up). Chicago was celebrating Venetian Night and so were we!

ANTIPASTI: My husband, Herb, had Steamed Fresh Jumbo Shrimp that he said tasted ocean-fresh, garnished with shaved avocado, and tomato drizzled with light coconut juice.  

Jumbo Shrimp

I was equally delighted with a Carpaccio of Tri-colored Heirloom Tomatoes, Buffala di Mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil with a tapinade of seedless eggplant. It tasted just as fresh and beautiful as it looks:

Heirloom Tomatoes with Mozzarella

The next course was warm and served with Pouilly-FuissĂ©.  My course-- sautĂ©ed wild mushrooms—brown and white Shimeji, King Oyster, Yellow Foot, Shitake—was earthy and flavorful.  Mushrooms are a favorite if mine and I was so pleased that the chef chose them!

Sautéed Wild Mushrooms

Herb’s dish, Grilled Fresh Calamari, Baby Arugula, and White Northern Beans was healthy balance of flavor, texture and color.

Calimari

PRIMI, served with a “Moshin” Chardonnay from Sonoma, was, for me,  Homemade Ravioli, Lobster, Avocado and Saffron-Fennel sauce that was subtle but distinctive, colorful and aromatic.

Ravioli

The chef’s choice for Herb was Risotto with fresh Dungeness crab, Asparagus and Saffron Broth.

Risotto

Before SECONDI, we cleansed our palate with green apple sorbet dotted with little flakes of skin. Now we were ready for the main event.

I was delighted with my Potato-Crusted Red Snapper, poached Brussels Sprouts and Lemongrass sauce. Everything was delicious but the big surprise was the Brussels Sprouts!  They were tender but not overcooked and tasty (NOT bitter).  Whatever they were poached in wasn’t my mom’s recipe!

Potato-Crusted Red Snapper with those Brussels Sprouts

Herb’s dish was Seared Wild Striped Bass with Green Asparagus and White Truffle Sauce.  We traded plates to share the delights of  our flaky fish and lovely vegetables.

Seared Wild Striped Bass

To complement this course, we were served Oregon Domaine Coteau 2007 and Barolo Sandiliano 2004.

Our Dinner Wines

And now for DOLCE, dessert! Once again, we celebrated Venetian Night, this time with individual chocolate gondolas called "Sweet Venetian Dream."  The little dessert boats were filled with dark chocolate, white chocolate and heavy cream but appeared to float on the beautifully decorated plate.

DOLCE!

And, of course, there was dessert wine!

Our dessert wine, Moscato

Following our "Sweet Venetian Dream," we were served plates of cheese, fresh and dried fruit and homemade raisin bread and—yes, you guessed it!--more wine!  This time, it was a lively Port.


Cheese platter


But wait!  That’s not all!  Everybody always gets cookies and nougat at Pane Caldo and how could we not get our cookies on Venetian Night?  We drank coffee with our cookies.  And we did not whine.

We had had an evening full of delicious food and an unbelievable variety of wines.  We were not uncomfortably full.  We were not even tipsy.  We were smug.  We found one of Chicago's best kept secrets across the street from Bloomingdale’s and now we're sharing it with you.  Celebrate life there!


Pane Caldo
72 East Walton
CHICAGO 60611
312 649 0055 t
312 274 0540 f
www.pane-caldo.com

Photos: Herb Simms, Pane Caldo

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