March 17th was the official date of the 150th Anniversary of Italian Unification (1861-2011).
The Risorgimento was a movement led by heroic Italian patriots like Camillo Cavour, Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi. Their efforts resulted in the establishment of the Italian nation. Although Napoleon attempted to unify Italy, his defeat led to oppression and dismal economic and political turmoil. Today Italian national brands like Armani, Versaci and Ferrari are a reflection of Italian ingenuity and quality craftsmanship.
Thank God they didn’t unify the culinary traditions that celebrate the diversity of the historical influences and regions of Italy. The cuisine is the cornerstone of signature dishes around the world.
On March 17th, Fulvio Calcinardi, the executive director of the Italian American Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the Milan Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International awarded 18 Chicago-area restaurants with the “Ospitalilita Italiana Quality Seal.” Here’s a video from the Chamber of Commerce that describes the Award Criteria http://youtu.be/NFzOZmZ-a0I
The Italian Quality Seal Award recognizes authentic Italian Restaurants and is granted by the Italian Government. This honor is bestowed for their authenticity and culinary contributions to Italian Culture. I love that this event took place on St. Patrick’s Day. Did you know that St. Patrick was the son of a Roman?
The Quality specifications are determined by Italy’s National Institute of Tourist Research and was launched in Italy in 1997. The project was extended beyond Italy’s borders and each establishment must meet 10 stringent criteria and submit proof of their authenticity.
The award ceremony took place at the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Little Italy on Taylor Street in Chicago. Participants were able to taste the cuisine of many of Chicago’s premier Italian restaurants where the chef’s lovingly prepared some of their signature dishes.
The seal was created in 1997 and generated a list of criteria that includes proof of authenticity. It is like a “Baldrige Award” for authentic Italian restaurants and esteemed Italian chefs. Each restaurant must employ at least one Italian speaking employee and the menus must be written in proper Italian. At least 20% of the wines must be DOP-certified and the head chef must be proficient in authentic Italian cooking . They must submit at least five recipes with the region and ingredients that inspired the menu.
The 18 Chicago-Area Restaurants that earned the coveted award are:
- Spiaggia Restaurant, 980 N. Michigan (Chef/Partner Tony Mantuano)
- Piccolo Sogno, 464 N. Halsted (Chef/Owner Tony Priolo)
- Coco Pazzo, 300 W. Hubbard (Executive Chef/Partner Chris Macchia)
- Merlo on Maple, 16 W. Maple (Chef Luisa Silvia Marani)
- Tocco, 1266 N. Milwaukee (Chef/Owner Bruno Abate)
Vivere at The Italian Village, 71 W. Monroe
Volare, 201 E. Grand (Chef Massimo Campagnini)
- Pelago Ristorante, 201 E. Delaware (Chef/Owner Mauro Mafrici)
- Quartino, 626 N. State (Chef/Partner John Coletta)
Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush, 437 N. Rush (Executive Chef Federico Comacchio)
- Riccardo Trattoria, 2119 N. Clark (Chef/Owner Riccardo Michi)
- 312 Chicago (Chef Luca Corazzina)
- Via Carducci La Sorella, 1928 W. Division (Chef Luis Hernandez)
- Vivere (at Italian Village), 71 W. Monroe (Chef Robert Reynaud)
- La Cantina (at Italian Village), 71 W. Monroe (Chef Robert Duerscheidt)
- Ristorante Agostino, 2817 N. Harlem (Chef Anna Fiasche)
- Sergio’s Cucina Italiana, 280 N. Rohlwing Rd., Itasca (Chef Sergio Abate)
- Gaetano’s, 7636 W. Madison, Forest Park (Chef Gaetano Di Benedetto)
The wine and Prosecco were provided by Casa Vinicolo Zonin
Here are a few Italian restaurants that I like with alfresco dining that were not recognized with a formal award:
1. Anteprima is located at 5316 Clark Street in Andersonville
2. Zia’s in Edison Park and Zia’s Lago Vista on Ashland in Lakeview are both outstanding! The latter has plenty of outdoor seating
3. Club Lago’s northern Italian cuisine has been around for over 60 years at 331 W. Superior in River North.
4. Viaggio At The Park on Fullerton in Lincoln Park also has an outdoor seating area
5. Topo Gigio in the heart of Old Town on Wells Street has plenty of outdoor space. It has been around for over 25 years.
6. Autre Monde in Berwyn, was founded by four Spiaggio alums has a patio and greenhouse. http://www.autremondecafe.net/
7. Due Lire on 4520 N. Lincoln in Lincoln Square http://www.due-lire.com/
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Vino con Vista Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com.
- A Taste of Italy in Chicago at Festa Italiana on Taylor Street (vinoconvistablog.wordpress.com)