Piccolo Sogno – 464 North Halsted Street, Chicago, IL
The Cheesecake Factory – 875 N Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL
Yes, I’m writing about Piccolo Sogno and the Cheesecake Factory in the same breath. Yes, that seems blasphemous to compare an authentic joint that focuses on handmade pastas and superbly fresh ingredients to a chain restaurant that has the word “factory” in it’s name. Yes, I think Piccolo Sogno is worlds better, but the Cheesecake Factory still has a special place in my heart.
So despite my love for handmade pastas and living less than a mile away pretty much since it opened, this was my first trip to the original Piccolo Sogno – I’ve been to Piccolo Sogno Due a few times (https://eatinginchicago2014.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/piccolosognodue/) but I finally made it to the original – it was a quick early Sunday dinner a few weeks ago.
There’s something about fresh pasta that I love, and pappardelle is probably my favorite of the fresh pastas that I’ve had. The thickness of the noodle gives it a perfect tenderness, and the surface area allows it to soak up just the right amount of sauce. The boar ragu here is well done – it coats the pasta well and the flavor of the meat complements the perfect amount of added tomato.
It was a quick meal but a perfectly sized portion and reasonably priced. As far as fresh pastas go, there aren’t many better options in the city that I’ve had.
Fast forward to a few sundays later – the temps are rising and a walk around the Gold Coast has us jonesing for pasta again. I suggest Bar Toma – Sara wants the Cheesecake Factory so I oblige. Now, if you’ve never been to the Cheesecake Factory, the menu is a book thicker than Atlas Shrugged with no less than 9,258 items on it that range from Asian to Italian to Mexican. Despite the menu being so large, I typically get the same thing every time (for lack of decisiveness on my part – and at this point, why change?)
The dish I usually get is the crusted chicken romano – it’s pretty simple but it’s been my go to for probably 15 years of dining at the Cheescake factory. It’s the most basic of dishes – a scallopined chicken breast crusted with Romano and Parmesan served atop a healthy portion of thin spaghetti and a simple tomato sauce. This is pretty much as basic as one gets, and while I know I can whip something like this up at home in a few minutes, I still opt to get it. Classic example of how sentimentality and memory can sway one’s appreciation of food.
Again, no critic in their right mind would pit the Crusted Chicken Romano against the Wild Boar Ragu Pappardelle, but I’m not a critic, and I enjoy them both for different reasons. Although I’m still wishing we went to Bar Toma….