Dear reader, I cannot express to you how lovely it is for me to discover a new BYOB restaurant–particularly when it is right between the store and my house. And so it is with a fair bit of enthusiasm that I left Ciao Amore last night.
To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. I live in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood, and as such my favorite places in the ‘hood are typically small joints that dish out carnitas, barbacoa, al pastor, and birria. What would calamari fritti and beef brascole/braciole mean for my dining options? I had been hoping for the best, as my palate of late has been sort of craving hearty meat-and-cheese dishes such as my friend’s Italian grandmothers would make when I was growing up just a stone’s throw outside of the heavily Italian-American city of Philadelphia.
A few weeks ago, when I first heard about the restaurant’s opening, I was excited at the prospect of a new place opening up so near both the store and my house. Obviously, knowing that it was a BYOB restaurant sent my mind into high gear: what wines could I have at hand at the store, ready to recommend to customers–and myself!–heading down the street to eat dinner at the new place? At first, my thought led instantly to Italian whites and reds, whose natural acidity typically lend themselves nicely to food pairing. But, when the time came, I thought something a little different would be the right fit. I settled on the excellent J Mourat Fief Vendeens Rouge, a spry blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Negrette from the Loire Valley. Herbaceous on the nose but with lively black cherry fruit on the palate and a dash of spice on the finish, this squat-shouldered bottle [featuring an owl on the label, who knows why?] was the perfect accompaniment across several genres of food, from the well-seasoned and not-at-all chewy calamari to the homey beef braciole, a rolled steak stuffed with prosciutto, spinach and cheese topped with zingy tomato sauce.
The space was warm, with exposed brick and welcoming yellow walls. I was thrilled to see our LUSH cards featured on a hutch, alongside other local busineses and some icons and candles. All in all, the meal was a great, comfortable experience, and I am happy to welcome Ciao Amore, Pilsen’s newest BYO restaurant. Don’t forget to stop into LUSH on the way to grab the right bottle for the food. We got you covered.
1134 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608