Not to stereotype, but if there's one thing Italians know, it's food and wine (okay, so that's two things). Salute Wine Bar in the Gold Coast
capitalizes on this fact, pairing an array of piatti piccoli, insalate, panini and dolce with more than 50 wines representing all 20 of Italy's regions. It's a blissful combination showcasing the best of Italian culture in a city shadowed by the legacy of Al Capone.
Housed in the historic Hennessy House, a rehabbed relic of pre-Victorian Era Chicago, the intimate space provides the ideal setting for a romantic rendezvous or good conversation with friends. The charming terrace, which fronts on an elegant, tree-lined block of Superior, is the perfect place to pass one of Chicago's glorious summer evenings, while the memory of last winter washes away in a smooth sauvignon blanc. Of course, the demi-sized terrace fills up fast, so you may wind up seated in the cool, cavernous interior, where the ground-floor level and stone walls create the atmosphere of a centuries-old cantina. Either way, you'll enjoy good music, great service and a one-of-a-kind European vibe.
To start, try the tomato and artichoke bruschetta ($5.95), or, if you're with a larger group, the six-piece bruschetta combinato ($9.95), which offers tomato/artichoke and white bean/roasted red pepper varieties. For dinner, the Salute panino presents a savory combination of prosciutto di Parma, gorgonzola dolce and truffled fig butter ($10.50), while the smoked salmon spinach salad provides a light but well-rounded option. For dessert, you can go the familiar route with tiramisu, or try something a bit innovative in the strawberry and fig compote bruschetta - or, you can do both.
Of course, in terms of options, the food menu barely competes with the wine list. If the thought of choosing from such an extensive catalog overwhelms you, the expert staff can recommend a blanco or rosso based on your preferences and food order. Because at Salute, the last thing you should feel is stressed out.
Centerstage Reviewer: Amanda Nyren