One of this summer’s oddest suburban dramas has ended peacefully: After a few months at odds with the City of Glencoe’s liquor licensing process, Cibo Trattoria has finally been granted their license, and their full bar is now open.
For a while there was uncertainty about whether they would remain open; it’s hard to compete as a full-service restaurant when you can’t serve alcohol and Glencoe laws prohibit customers from the BYOB option. An iPetition was started and garnered 1,255 signatures; the owners threatened to close, with chef/proprietor Rick Raschillo quoted in the Chicago Tribune saying, “No one wants to eat Italian food without a glass of wine.” But happily, crisis averted. Because if they had closed, we never would’ve gotten the opportunity to have their almost unbearably delicious Italian Poutine, and THAT would’ve been a travesty. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Cibo has taken over the site of the old Dewey’s burger and hot dog joint, and the interior is (thankfully) unrecognizable. It’s now a blend of urban and rustic chic, with lots of cool, dark colors, black chairs, and chandeliers of candlelights in concentric circles. The aforementioned bar spans the back of the room.
Now That’s a Meatball
If you’re looking to split some appetizers, start with the Cibo Meatball ($14), a single behemoth of beef, veal and pork, sauced with ruby-red marinara, and topped with fluffy, fresh ricotta and some micro basil. While it’s both tender and tasty, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Siena Tavern meatball that it is clearly patterned after.
But oh, that Cibo Italian Poutine ($9). How good is it? I am salivating just typing these words. Let’s be real … it’s hard to mess up poutine, because what could be bad when you combine fries, cheese curds and gravy? Yet this one breaks new ground. This is gravy, Italian-style. So it’s tomato vodka cream sauce atop crispy house-cut, skin-on fries, dotted with subterranean cheese curds, and garnished with bits of crispy pancetta and more of that micro basil. I will order it each and every time I eat here. Nom nom.
Among the salad options, I’d aim for the meaty Sicilian ($12), a large bowl filled with loads of mixed greens, chickpeas, banana peppers, provolone cheese and topped with lots and lots of Italian meats: soppressata, prosciutto and salami, all tossed with a Sicilian vinaigrette. The Tuscan Kale Caesar ($11) was one-note, and that note was kale. The promised “creamy avocado dressing” was bland and lacked any acidity.
Carbo Loaders, Rejoice
We loved the Pappardelle Bolognese ($18), wide noodles cradling a meaty tomato sauce, but we had to ask our server for Parmesan cheese. The jalapeño pesto in the Black Spaghetti Shrimp ($21) made the dish extremely spicy, which overpowered the pan-seared garlic rock shrimp and the squid ink pasta. Next time we would opt for a substitution of the traditional basil pesto that they have available.
If you’re gluten-free, never fear, Cibo has options. Choose one of their Italian-flavored quinoa bowls, like the Pesto Quinoa ($10) with sautéed spinach, chicken, Parmesan and your choice of spicy or regular basil pesto. A little more seasoning would be welcome, but I prefer that to a kitchen heavy-handed with salt.
Cibo’s pizza is of the thin-crusted, cornmeal-coated, blisteringly hot, oven-roasted variety. I’m a fan of that crispy crust, especially in the White Pizza ($14), when it’s gilded with mozzarella, spicy arugula, thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, shaved Parmesan, garlic oil and balsamic vinegar. We made short work of it.
Entrées with Flair
Lake Superior White Fish ($22) adds some welcome lightness to the menu, and the execution is quite lovely. The skin-on white fish is pan-seared, beautifully seasoned and served atop couscous with an English pea-shallot puree and garlic-cherry tomato sauce. Plenty of color and flavor to be found on this plate.
The kitchen also did well by an 8-ounce beef Filet ($36), cooked medium-rare as requested, with a charred exterior. It perched enticingly atop butter-poached watercress and tiny roasted potatoes and cippoline onions, the plate ringed with a demi-infused pan sauce.
Mountain-Sized Slice of Chocolate Cake
Dessert options were presented verbally, and with six or seven to choose from, they really should be presented on a physical menu. Only a few are made in-house, including a “Pazookie” ($10), which was a lightly baked chocolate chip cookie served warm in a small cake pan and topped with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. If you order the Matterhorn ($18), be forewarned that it is both pricey and enormous. This gigantic slab of 8-layer chocolate cake will easily feed four people, with enough to take home. So is it worth $18? Yes – it’s an enormous portion for a crowd. Would it be advisable for the server to tell us the price before we order it? Again, yes. Anytime options are given verbally, especially when the price is much higher than the other offerings, prices should be stated upfront.
Things are changing in Glencoe. There are now a few good options (including Guildhall) in the downtown area for serious dining, and with the opening of the fabulous new Jeanne Gang-designed Writers Theatre building coming soon, there will be plenty of patrons clamoring for reservations. And every single one of them should order the poutine.
667 Glencoe Ave.