Charles and I stayed in Chicago over Memorial Day, and we enjoyed a deserted Chicago. Even popular bars and restaurants had seating. Michigan Avenue wasn’t packed. It was calm and relaxing. On Memorial Day itself, we decided to go out for lunch. It was one of the first hot and sunny days of the year, so we started walking downtown brainstorming restaurants along the way. I was very hungry after a big workout, and we both wanted to sit outside. Then it occurred to us that we needed to go to Quartino, one of our favorite Italian restaurants.
Quartino is a large two story restaurant in River North with a generous amount of outdoor seating and a menu with the perfect mix of Italian classics. We have been to Quartino dozens of times. When our friendly waiter initially stopped by our table, Charles was in the bathroom, but I just started ordering. The waiter’s response was, “So you have been here before”. And then, just when I thought I had the menu memorized and knew everything I needed to know – he waiter said “So you know we serve half orders of the pastas, right?”. This is key information that was new to me! And it meant that I got to try two pastas instead of one.
We started things off with the Spinach Salad with Pears, Ricotta Salata, and Walnuts. It is a simple salad, very light dressed in a vinaigrette. It is so simple, but somehow I know that I couldn’t quite recreate it. I also believe that the healthy dose of spinach is a nice way to begin a meal of pizza and pasta. If we were eating dinner, we would have also ordered a selection of meals and cheeses, because we are addicted to cheese. Since it was lunch, we skipped it.
Charles always always orders the Quatro Stagioi Pizza, which has artichokes, mushrooms, grilled zucchini, and roasted peppers. The pizza is thin crust, and has just the right ratio of cheese and vegetables.
I selected two half orders of pasta. The Cavatelli with a simple tomato sauce and fresh ricotta is one of my favorites, and I also had the Tagliatelle alls Bolognese (pictured at the top of the post). I loved how completely different these two pastas are.
It was lunchtime, and I didn’t want to complete counteract my workout, so I didn’t order dessert. But if I did, it would have been the Zeppole, warm Italian doughnuts with chocolate sauce. The Profiteroles are great too.
Quartino is a great place for groups. The small plates make it fun for sharing with friends, and the price is very reasonable. They always have a few bottles of wine on special for $20 each, and we generally end up spending around $30-$40 a person. A gluten-free menu is available too.
Quartino is located at 626 North State Street, in Chicago’s River North. The do accept reservations.