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Grit Pound Cake with Grape Sorbet, Salted Sorghum Bohemian Cream, and Brandied Peaches at Big Jones

Grit Pound Cake with Grape Sorbet, Salted Sorghum Bohemian Cream, and Brandied Peaches at Big Jones

Anteprima

5316 N. Clark | 773-506-9990

$$$

ITALIAN | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

Owner Marty Fosse ran the front of the house at Spiaggia at one time, and while Anteprima is a far cry from that rarefied temple of la cucina Italiana, his neighborhood place has many virtues. A long list of antipasti leads the menu, which changes frequently, a few of them very inexpensive and a few rather special, like soft veal meatballs in a sweet saffron-tomato sauce. My table's orders of orecchiette with lamb sausage and bitter greens arrived merely warm and a little gummy, but an order of spaghetti with fava beans was damn near perfect. Main dishes include a brick-grilled baby chicken, New York strip, and wood-grilled whole fish specials. There's a long, all-Italian wine list with plenty of quartino options and a decent selection of grappa and other digestives. The Anteprima team is also behind the recently opened Acre (5308 N. Clark, 773-334-7600), serving an extensive selection of craft beers and a seasonal menu in the former Charlie's Ale House. —Mike Sula

Antica Pizzeria

5663 N. Clark | 773-944-1492

$$

ITALIAN, PIZZA | DINNER: sunday-monday, wednesday-saturday | closed tuesday |Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11 | BYO

I'm all for the pandemic of serious pizza we've been blessed by in recent years. Every block deserves a wood burner, every neighborhood rates an experienced pizzaiolo. But Andersonville is already home to one significant pie shop, Great Lake. Here's hoping that in the future people like Antica chef-owner Mario Rapisarda (a Spiaggia vet) will target areas that desperately need earnestly pie-focused professionals in their midst. At Antica the pies are of the Neapolitan species, thin, charred, blistered crusts that get a bit swampy toward the center. They're as pricey as the ones at Ravenswood's Spacca Napoli, but topped less lovingly: I was happy with the quality of the olives on the quattro stagioni, but the prosciutto could have been better. The balance of the menu is composed of a few antipasti—including calamari, tender but overbattered—and salads, including a particularly well-composed arugula-radicchio-frisee trio with diced black olive and some crumbles of goat cheese. There are also a handful of pastas and a few fish and poultry entrees, all delivered with supreme haste. Their house-made desserts include profiteroles, tiramisu, and a wonderfully creamy panna cotta in a martini glass. —Mike Sula

Big Jones

5347 N. Clark | 773-275-5725

$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL, SOUTHERN/SOUL FOOD  | LUNCH: MONDAY-FRIDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH

Paul Fehribach, former chef at Schubas' Harmony Grill, has taken the space long home to trapped-in-amber Augie's diner and turned it into an airy, minimalist dining room distinguished by floor-to-ceiling windows and wrought-iron chandeliers. Like those chandeliers, the menu gives a little wave to the French Quarter. The cocktail list is full of daiquiris, hurricanes, and Sazeracs—including one with absinthe—and the menu includes crawfish-boudin croquettes and a rich and smoky gumbo with chicken and andouille. I didn't try the sandwiches but I wish I had: at a neighboring table a sizable Tallgrass beef burger with fontina and aioli was provoking groans of happiness. And the fresh, clean flavors of a simple house salad got my friend to sit up and take notice. All in all Big Jones seems to be striving to fuse the accoutrements of upscale dining with the down-home soul of country cooking. When it works, the results are stellar, both sophisticated and bone-deep satisfying. —Martha Bayne

Great Lake

1477 W. Balmoral | 773-334-9270

$$

PIZZA | DINNER: wedneSDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY-tuesDAY | BYO | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

You can't say that Great Lake hasn't nailed its niche. Operating out of a tiny Andersonville storefront, it offers pizza, in five different variations, to take out or eat in at the restaurant's small communal table. Period. But, oh, what pizza it is. Made to order from meticulously sourced ingredients—everything on the menu has a pedigree—the pies are perfectly balanced. The #2 features creamy pools of house-made mozzarella, sopressata straight from New York's Salumeria Biellese, and a light fresh tomato puree atop a chewy, slightly salty crust. Other options showcase earthy cremini mushrooms and raw cow's milk cheese or hickory smoked bacon, creme fraiche, onion, and sage. Warning: the pizza oven is as small as the rest of the place, and can only handle a few pies at a time, but owners Lydia Esparza and Nick Lessins do their best to give you an accurate wait time. Frankly, it's worth it. —Martha Bayne

Hopleaf

5148 N. Clark | 773-334-9851

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, EUROPEAN | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Michael Roper's Hopleaf has always been a great bar with a few tragic flaws. The staggering selection of beers with an emphasis on Belgians can be daunting for novices to navigate without assistance, and occasionally stony bartenders are sometimes unwilling or too overwhelmed to provide it. A victim of the Check, Please! phenomenon, it can get so unbearably crowded on weekends that it's advisable to avoid it entirely, though a planned expansion may help in that regard. An extremely detailed beer menu helps too, and there's no place like this one to explore the deep Belgian tradition of pairing great beer with food—not to mention good food cooked with great beer, the most celebrated and enjoyable example being the mussels steamed in Wittekerke white ale, with long, crispy frites and a tangy aioli. But one of the coolest things about Hopleaf is its commitment to the proper way of drinking—many drafts are poured in their own glasses, designed to accentuate the special qualities of each. —Mike Sula

In Fine Spirits

5420 N. Clark | 773-334-9463

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS  | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 2, MONDAY-THURSDAY TILL MIDNIGHT, SUNDAY TILL 11

This sleek but cozy wine bar, from the owners of the adjacent In Fine Spirits retail store, is a hot spot on an Andersonville strip known for its lambics and glogg. The ample menu of accessibly priced glasses and flights is dominated by New World wines and augmented with classic cocktails and a choice selection of craft beer. There's an abbreviated rotating menu of cheese, charcuterie, and heftier plates like salmon poached in Unibroue 17 or seared lollipop lamb chops. And, of course, should you fall for a particular juice, you can always come back when the store's open and make it your own. —Martha Bayne

Leonardo's Ristorante

5657 N. Clark | 773-561-5028

$$

Italian | Hours: Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Monday | Open Late: Friday & Saturday till 11

This stylish restaurant in north Andersonville offers a contemporary Tuscan menu. Starters include delicately battered and fried calamari, an antipasto plate with capicola, sopressata, goat cheese, huge capers, and roasted vegetables, plus a carpaccio of veal, beef, and tuna. The pasta dishes are skillfully—sometimes painstakingly—executed. The veal osso buco ravioli, for instance, involves stuffing delicate homemade pasta with veal shank, bone marrow, and goat cheese, then pouring a veal demi-glace over it all. The tortelloni, stuffed with ricotta and served with a garlic cream sauce, is rich and satisfying. Meat dishes include a bone-in pork chop stuffed with Italian sausage and Gorgonzola and served over truffled polenta with a mushroom ragout and asparagus; there are also steak, veal, and fish options. For dessert there's homemade gelato and tiramisu. —Laura Levy Shatkin

M. Henry

5707 N. Clark | 773- 561-1600

$

AMERICAN | BREAKFAST, LUNCH: TUESDAY-SATURDAY  | SUNDAY BRUNCH | CLOSED MONDAY | BYO | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

This charming cafe from partners Michael Moorman and Jorge Aviles offers an eclectic selection of breakfast, brunch, and lunch dishes featuring natural ingredients and house-baked breads. There's a turkey sandwich with walnut pesto and cranberry sauce, a miso-glazed veggie burger, a Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich, a veggie Dagwood, and five others, along with nourishing "peasant bowls" with beans, noodles, organic rice, and veggies. Breakfast and brunch entrees are more interesting: a dish called Vegan Epiphany is organic tofu scrambled with red and green peppers, onions, and yuba (a baconlike soy product), while Dulce Banana Rumba is thick-cut brioche French toast with warm bananas, rum, golden raisins, and pecans. Pancakes come with either maple syrup or layered with blackberry compote and vanilla mascarpone and topped with a brown-sugar-and-oat crust. Prices are reasonable, and the staff is friendly and eager to accommodate. An attached patisserie offers breads, focaccia and other savories, and an array of tempting-looking treats for takeout; it's open till 3 PM. Moorman & Aviles are also behind the new M. Henrietta (1133 W. Granville, 773-761-9700), which is open for dinner. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Mista

5351 N. Clark | 773-506-1500

$

PIZZA, ITALIAN, VEGETARIAN/HEALTHY | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | BYO

I don't know how this family-run minichain in the making stayed off my radar for as long as it did. Granted, there's been a huge influx of Neopolitan-style pizza places the last couple years, but Mista's cracker-crust pies stand out in the crowd. The Florentine—with organic baby spinach, mushrooms, and roasted garlic and both seasoned ricotta and gobs of fresh mozzarella—was a bit too rich for my blood, but the pesto pizza, with kalamata olives and more fresh mozz, was an instant classic, sure to become a regular in the rotation. Salads, too, were outstanding, the house mixed greens featuring pepperoncini and chickpeas in addition to red onion and tomato, all in a perfectly balanced balsamic vinaigrette; the antipasto salad was hearts of romaine piled with a load of meats and cheeses. Organic roasted vegetables turn up in a pasta-free lasagne as well as topping the Heart Smart pizza. There's also cheese lasagna, a favorite of some regulars judging from their banter with the friendly waitress, gifted with a voice like one of the Simpsons aunts. Wraps, in your choice of flour, wheat, or spinach tortilla, are also available, including an Italian Tuna and the Mista, organic field greens, roasted chicken, organic Granny Smith apples and dried cherries, toasted macadamia nuts, and feta cheese dressing. Mista is BYO; there's a second location at 2931 N. Broadway and a third in the works downtown at LaSalle and Randolph. —Kate Schmidt

Pasticceria Natalina

5406 N. Clark | 773-989-0662

$

BAKERY | SUNDAY 11 AM-7 PM, WEDNESDAY-FRIDAY NOON TO 9 PM, SATURDAY 9 AM-7 PM | CLOSED MONDAY, TUESDAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Since opening their pastry shop Pasticceria Natalina one Valentine's Day, Natalie Zarzour and her husband, Nick, have labored to the point of exhaustion to introduce their customers to the culture of Sicilian dolci, where there are no shortcuts, the cannoli are filled to order, and it's appropriate to indulge in something sweet anytime but dessert. In addition to more common items like cannoli, Zarzour's been rolling out an exotic, ever-changing selection: orange blossom or rosewater rice puddings; a boozy rum baba; zeppole, deep-fried fritters filled with custard and sour amarana cherries, traditionally served for Saint Joseph's Day; spicy iced fig cookies called cuccidatti; shell-shaped, ricotta-filled Neapolitan sfogliatelle; and delicate, savory fazzoletti ("little handkerchiefs"), puff pastries filled with combinations like peas, prosciutto, and mint or artichoke hearts, capers, raisins, and pine nuts. You can also get exotica like cassatine, or miniature cassata, the elaborate glazed and fruit-bedecked Sicilian Easter cake. Choosing among the offerings can be agonizing, and they're expensive. But that's the price you pay for quality ingredients and painstaking, labor-intensive authentic recipes. —Mike Sula

Sunshine Cafe

5449 N. Clark | 773-334-6214

$

ASIAN, JAPANESE | LUNCH: SUNDAY; DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY | BYO | RESERVATIONS for large groups only

Noodle dishes—from nutty buckwheat soba to chewy wheat udon—dominate the menu at this home-style Japanese restaurant. Most come swimming in large bowls of broth with generous servings of vegetables or meat. A brief selection of equally impressive main courses includes sukiyaki, shrimp tempura, and a pleasantly sweet chicken teriyaki. Prices are rock-bottom—many consider it one of the best bang-for-your-buck places in Chicago. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Tanoshii

5547 N. Clark | 773-878-6886

$$$

ASIAN, JAPANESE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL MIDNIGHT, WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY TILL 11 | BYO

To best experience Tanoshii, put yourself in the hands of chef Mike Ham (better known as Sushi Mike), who's known for his improvisational skills as much as for his sage advice—"You're gonna like that," he said, pointing to a piece of hamachi on my friend's sashimi plate, "but try it without the soy sauce." He was right; it was perfect unadorned. The next time I went I brought a sushi virgin and asked Mike to surprise us. We started with a light, refreshing maki featuring smoked salmon, cucumber, and Asian pear, continued with other flavorful and creative rolls not found on the menu, moved on to the "Mike special"—red snapper and thin-sliced lemon rolled into a giant rosebud—and ended what seemed like an odyssey of eating with a single, lovely slab of fatty tuna. The space, once home to the dingy Kotobuki, is now simple and bright. My only beefs are with the so-so miso and the liquor service (or lack thereof): the place is BYO, but I had to ask for glasses for my Sapporo, and my extras remained by my side, unchilled in their Jewel bag, for the duration. Still, nothing is going to keep me from going back so Sushi Mike can give me the business. —Kathie Bergquist

Please submit new listings or updates (include phone numbers) to restaurants@chicagoreader.com or Restaurant Listings, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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