The Purple Pig Brings Home the Bacon

When I heard that Jimmy Bannos (of perennial favorite Heaven on Seven) was opening a new restaurant with his son, Jimmy Jr., and Scott Harris of Mia Francesca, my ears perked up.

When I found out that they were going to call it The Purple Pig, and promised “Cheese, Swine & Wine,” my mouth started watering. I believe in better living through pork products.

I finally made it in, and I can only wonder, what took me so damn long?

The interior is welcoming and airy, with high ceilings, light wood and small tables along the east wall. 5 or 6 large communal tables seat up to 12 people. In the summer, al fresco will be an option.

The menu changes seasonally, but is the same at lunch and dinner. There’s something for everyone, and it’s Mediterranean tapas that’s meant to be shared. This is a place where you will over-order, but the food will disappear.

Spring is definitely in evidence on the menu, with fresh peas, asparagus, artichokes, fava beans, and ramps front and center amidst the piggy pieces. A vegetarian will find much to please; but a meat eater will be even happier.

We began with antipasti (prices range from $4-7). Each dish glistened with olive oil and sparkled with fresh flavor (although salt is used with a heavy hand; one dish was pretty much inedible). The Spring Peas with Farro, Feta & Mint, Braised Baby Artichokes with Fingerling Potatoes, Asiago & Salami Toscana, and the Fava Beans with Hard-Boiled Eggs and Crispy Prosciutto hit the spot.

There’s a whole passel of “Fried Items” (that’s the heading), and we opted for the Spring Pea Arancini with Ricotta and Mint ($5). Little balls of risotto have never been cuter or tastier. Fried perfectly, seemingly greaseless, they floated on a bed of pureed fresh ricotta cheese dotted with a mint-scented pesto.

From the “A La Plancha, Etc.” section, we chose the Chicken Thigh Kebabs with Fried Smashed Potatoes and Tzatziki ($11), the meat moist and flavorful, the tzatziki redolent of garlic and creamy, with good Greek yogurt. In the Sepia with Snap Peas & Toasted Almonds ($10), the cuttlefish was marinated and seared whole on the plancha, then sliced into silken strips with just the right amount of texture. Toasted almonds provided a welcome crunch.

Dessert? If you insist! The Italian-style desserts, including Butterscotch Budino, Sfogliatelle Napoletane, and a Panino con Nutella, are all $6. Soft serve ice cream is available, and if too much isn’t good enough for you, go for the Sicilian Iris, a ricotta and chocolate chip-filled fried brioche ball, crusted with cinnamon sugar. We enjoyed its crunchy exterior and oozy goodness.

The Purple Pig is open every day from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays. That’s fortuitous, because there’s always a line at peak hours, so time your visit accordingly. The Pig doesn’t take reservations. After my visit, all I can say is “Oink!”

The Purple Pig
Chicago