When Grandma Moscatello commanded her grandson to second portions at the weekly Sunday family Italian dinner no matter how overstuffed he was for a wrestling match to come, she apparently was teaching him many ingredients of her secret sauce…
Although there is no trace of an Italian grandmother’s recipe book at play, there sure is an intermingling of warm relationships and delectable food, just as you’d picture in a large gregarious Italian family gathering.
No surprise that the kitchen is open for all to see. Chef Partner Bryan Moscatello likes it that way. When you walk in his door he feels you are his guest. If you sit at the long counter beside the open kitchen, as many like to do, he just might ask you to sample a dish that he and his team are working on.
Part of the farm to table movement sweeping haute cuisine in Chicago, Moscatello takes a firm stand that The Storefront Company will never use local ingredients just for the sake of being local. He says, “I’m a firm believer in pairing with like minded individuals. I want to buy products from people who love what they do and are always trying to create better ways to do what they do.”
The Storefront Company’s type of cuisine would traditionally come with white tablecloths, but the more informal and casual atmosphere of thick whitewash tables is more to Moscatello and his partners’ style.
A large abstract expressionist mural frames the décor. You are asked which table you would like but don’t spend much time choosing one spot from another—every spot looks good.
Ingredient #2 – casual and comfortable.
There are two tasting menus offered every night. One is called “chef’s experience”, which Moscatello explains is food that he finds himself craving.
Ingredient #3 – put your soul into what you do. That’s what elevates The Storefront Company’s fare to exquisite culinary art.
The “chef’s experience” menu changes monthly. The other tasting menu available is more seasonal and is varied with new ingredients as they become available. We tuned in for “early autumn” and new dishes had been added in just the past few days when the weather took a rapid turn to colder.
It is no wonder that gastronauts from LA, New York and beyond have already put The Storefront Company on their map. Having tasted the food, it wasn’t surprising either that in the early hours of what should be a slow weekday night the restaurant had a healthy crowd.
Moscatello relates that when they opened their doors in March of 2012 they had no idea that they would become a destination restaurant, thinking instead that the rhythms of Wicker Park and Bucktown must define their offering. Yes, there are some uber-locals who walk in the doors regularly, for example to try the new month’s ‘chef’s experience” menu. But whether you hail from Los Angeles or down the block, Moscatello wants to connect with you. That’s how his partners think of it too.
Our most energetic and upbeat server Jeff Shank seemed to love to share the details of each dish and reflect on how superbly the Chef had crafted many ingredients that essentially were variations on two or so flavors.
Ingredient #4 – Connect with the people eating at your tables.
The literal ingredient list of what went into our meals would easily number in the hundreds. It is not hyperbole to say that each and every dish, and the wine pairings thoughtfully created by Wine Director and Operating Partner Johnny Dalesandro, were truly works of art.
We began our meal, perhaps a bit foolishly if we had known what was to come, with two of the eight seasonal cocktails added to the menu.
“Botanist Gin” was akin to a dirty martini, with an olive brine and lemon bitters that gave it a fresh zip.
The “New Orleans Spiced Rum” was as autumnal as the name conjures, but with a pimento taste that keeps it out of that too-sweet-to-drink category.
Word to the wise, don’t even think about having a cocktail no matter how good they are, unless you are willing to skip the wine pairings with the tasting menu.
However, I wouldn’t advise skipping those wine pairings, as each of the six wines offered with the seven food courses were sweet, dry or fruity in just the right proportion to the sweet, salt, or fat nature of its accompanying dish.
Although it will always be tempting to have the full tasting menus, do note on the bottom of the menu that there is a four-course option with wine pairings. Although each plate is a relatively small portion it does add up and four courses would be more than adequate for most. I would be hard pressed however to tell you which course to omit.
The menu doesn’t quite prepare you for what is on your plate. For example, a dish called “beef and broccoli” might conjure local Chinese take-out to most. The “beef” were actually a mix of tongue, oxtail and beef pastrami with coriander, pickled garlic and chilis, among other ingredients.
If you read the ingredients in the monkfish dish you might think that a Jewish grandmother snuck into the kitchen. It not only had schmaltz but gribenese (cracklings) but with an apple cider celery puree that took it far from the likes of matzoh ball soup.
Many of the dishes had edible flowers, for example a radish bloom with the king crab and a tiny marigold with the rabbit bite that was compliments of the chef at the start of the meal.
Throughout the meal there were many yin yang rebalances of sweet and salty at work. One of the cheese dishes, for example, “la tur” in the “chef’s experience” menu, had candied olives. Even the butter for the homemade rolls had a lovely touch of pink Hawaiian salt to counterbalance the butter’s sweetness. Similarly the chocolate dessert has a nougat with a salty taste.
This is not an inexpensive meal but is your destination restaurant for a special occasion—birthday, anniversary, or other milestone. This beautiful restaurant is also hosting private parties, something I’ll certainly give a good chew.
The Storefront Company
1941 West North Avenue, Chicago
773 661 2609
Tuesday – Thursday: 5:30 – 10:00 pm
Friday and Saturday: 5:30 – 11:00 pm
Closed Sunday and Monday
Photos: Peter Kachergis