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RoseAngelis Restaurant Review – Where Locals Go For Creative Italian Fusion Cuisine

By Amy Munice with Photos by Peter Kachergis

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This Pizza del Giorno featured an alfredo base, grape tomatoes, roast garlic, bell pepper, kalamata olives, arugula, and fresh mozzarella

 

Tourists to Chicago often have a short list of restaurants they know of and patronize in the Loop, Gold Coast or Rush Street areas. 

 

Pollo Florentino--boneless breasts of chicken panko breaded and stuffed with provolone and spinach. Served in a spicy roasted tomato sauce on a bed of risotto mixed with bell peppers and mushrooms

 

Ask a native Chicagoan though, and those places are rarely on their short list of fave restaurants.  It’s all happening in the neighborhoods, ethnic or otherwise. 

 

The enclosed garden is away from the street, making it a much more pleasant outside dining experience

 

RoseAngelis is the find that visitors to Chicago—and natives of course—should know about for an Italian-based cuisine stretched with creativity to new boundaries.   

 

Nestled in a Near North neighborhood not far from Wrigley Field, RoseAngelis is known and loved by locals but little known to tourists who rarely travel beyond the Loop and well-worn tourist paths

 

Nestled in between houses not far from Wrigley Field, it’s easy to miss unless you know to look for it.  

 

The lovely rooms and garden of RoseAngelis often fill to a capacity crowd that might take away from your appreciation of the surrounds that you can enjoy at quieter times

 

RoseAngelis’ signature is a new twist on Italian staples. Think pasta with Mexican chipotle cream flair. 

 

Pasta special of the day--Mexicana style with roasted chicken in a ravioli with cilantro pesto cream sauce with pico de gallo

 

Think pear-stuffed pasta or pear lasagna for dessert.  Think 9-ingredient salads that come to your table like fine sculpture. 

 

It’s exactly this getting creative with cuisine that keeps Chef and Owner Lawrence Rosenblum going.  Yes, you’ll find the staples of regional Italian cuisine on the menu—from Rotini all Putanesca, to Lasagna al Forno, to Pollo all Marsala and more.  But it’s the daily specials--  pizza, salad, pasta, desserts, etc.—that give Rosenblum the outlet he craves for his creative spirit. 

 

Owner and Chef Lawrence Rosenblum was once a highly successful real estate attorney. He craved more outlets for his creativity, fueling his interest in culinary arts

 

That drive for creativity, is, after all, what brought him to the dance, so to speak, when he opened RoseAngelis in 1992.  A graduate of Northwestern Law School, Rosenblum had found early and quick success as a real estate attorney.  Yet his soul craved a creative outlet.  Cooking, which had started as a hobby became a passion leading him to culinary school and ultimately to opening RoseAngelis’ doors, leaving his successful law practice behind.

 

A next door neighbor provided many of the interesting photographs you see on the walls

 

Why Italian food?  It’s simply because that’s the food he enjoys the most.  Rosenblum quips, “If you are what you eat I’m Italian!”

 

Sampling a tasting menu it was apparent that the main caution about RoseAngelis dining is to avoid the strong temptation to always order the same thing.  

 

Melanzane Miniature all Parmigiana: slices of baby eggplant, baked with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella

 

Yes, you will likely marvel that the Eggplant Parmigiana (Melanzane all Parmigiana) is the best you’ve had--- a single layer that distinguishes from more mundane recipes by keeping the eggplant taste front and center and with a crispiness that doesn’t have oil overkill.   Yes, you’ll realize that even an appetizer portion of this dish coupled with one of RoseAngelis’ beautiful salads with the likes of large raw yellow and red beet slices and watermelon radish wuld suffice to make a meal for two, given the generous size of the portions.  Truly delicious, it is precisely the type of dish one would return to order again and again. But don’t go there.  There is way too much to explore and savor on the standing menu and daily specials.  

 

Bruschetta di Carne Asada - toasted Italian bread topped with grilled skirt steak, mixed greens, sautéed onions and sliced grape tomatoes. Drizzled with a spicy cilantro aioli

 

It’s not always the case, but when we arrived there were several Mexican-themed adaptations of Italian standards.  For example, Bruschetta di Carne Asada was a classic combination of the two cuisines, and made especially noteworthy by the slight drizzle of spicy cilantro aioli.  That oomph of spice added to the Pollo Florentino sauce made that dish another favorite that one would be in danger of wanting every time you return to RoseAngelis.  The special pasta was a delicious roast chicken ravioli with the Mexican fusion touches of cilantro pesto cream, pico de Gallo and a welcomed crunch from julienned tortilla chips.

 

This gorgeous special salad has the trademark nine ingredient count that is the RoseAngelis standard. This one included: traviso; cucumber; watermelon radishes; red beets; yellow beets; red tomatoes; red onion; and purple potato; and greens

 

The sculptural presentation of several of the dishes is also a standout—the aforementioned salads, for example, and the astonishing Castillo dessert was almost too beautiful to disturb.  

 

Castillo-tamarind ice cream topped with blackberries and bananas with toasted coconut on top in a caramel sauce

 

The pizzas, which you’ll appreciate for being very thin crusted, are centered with a mound of tasty sun dried tomatoes, with a brilliant orange color that makes them pop on the table.  These are beautifully presented dishes without being finicky.  It makes you realize how standardized most other plating at fine dining establishments is. 

 

Other artwork you see has been created by RoseAngelis' employees and some former employees

 

Looking at your surrounds you’ll also see many interesting photographs (from a RoseAngelis neighbor) and murals and artwork, contributed by RoseAngelis’ employees and former employees through the years. 

 

When he isn't in the kitchen, Chef Rosenblum is either with his two sons, making jewelry or ceramics, such as these candle lanterns you see at many tables. He won't make the dinnerware however because he couldn't stand the heartache of ceramic pieces he has made crashing to the floor

 

On many tables you’ll see Rosenblum’s candle lanterns, samples of the ceramics, that along with jewelry making, gives Rosenblum, a happily ex-attorney, those added dimensions of creative outlets that he needs.  

 

There are many comfy corners in the restaurant, which is a popular date night venue and home to many a marriage proposal through the years

 

Taking in these décor details was far more possible in the pre-opening early weekday evening hours when nobody was there.  Truth to tell, when you visit RoseAngelis on the weekend the liveliness of the crowd makes a far bigger impression than the feel of the homemade artwork. 

 

RoseAngelis takes reservations for about half of its tables, always leaving the other half available for drop-ins

 

This is a popular spot, for date nights and a growing roster of marriage proposals and also a frequent dining spot for many celebrities whose names Rosenblum discreetly takes a pass on listing. 

 

RoseAngelis’ success allows it to book only half the restaurant with reservations, ensuring that neighborhood and wider Chicagoland regulars can usually just drop in.

 

This Meritage wine was a most excellent pairing with three starters: pizza al giorno; bruschetta di carne asada; and melanzane miniature all parmigiana

 

We made a strong mental note to make a return on Tuesdays when RoseAngelis offers ½ price bottles of its 80 or so wines.  Because RoseAngelis gets many of these wines at lower prices than one would at even discount wine centers it offers a chance to explore wines at very attractive prices.

 

One other draw to note is the four-course prix fixe on Wednesdays and Thursdays that costs $59 for two. 

 

Pear Lasagna - Sliced bartlett pears layered with custard, cinnamon streusel on top, in a caramel sauce with pumpkin ice cream

 

The top tip for Rose Angelis dining—after making sure to put it on your radar—is to always make room for at least one special in your order.  Our sampling menu included several and the two dessert specials—Castillo and Pear Lasagna – were unique, delicious, and again so generously sized that either one could be a shared dessert for a party of four easily. 

 

 

Visit the RoseAngelis website for more information.

 

RoseAngelis

1314 West Wrightwood

Chicago, IL

 

773 296 0081

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published on Aug 02, 2015

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