The Monday after a vacation can be a little rough, but dinner with girl friends at a restaurant I had been looking forward to trying helped to soften the blow. Last night I finally dined at Formento’s with my friends Jocelyn and Soo. Formento’s opened in the West Loop earlier this year and immediately caught my interest since it is run by the same group that owns Balena, one of my very favorite eateries in the city.
Formento’s is a large restaurant that is divided into several distinct spaces. Past the front door is a large room with a bar and booths along the wall. The main dining room is in the next room. There is banquet seating long the windows, and the tables in the back half of the space are raised up a couple of steps preventing the dining room from feeling overwhelming big. Outside, a wide sidewalk patio has more tables.
Making time for dinner with girl friends should be celebrated, and we had prosecco to toast the occasion. Jocelyn, Soo, and I take food pretty seriously, and we had no shame when we ordered so much food that they had to bring another table over to make room for everything we ordered.
When I see Squash Blossoms on a menu I have to order them. The season is so short, and they are a special treat. The blossoms were filled with a creamy sweet mascarpone, lightly fried, and served with a spicy marinara. The sweetness of the mascarpone and the arrabbiata sauce complimented each other very well.
Per our waiter’s recommendation we also ordered the calamari. Generally, I am not a huge fan of calamari, but this calamari was not the least bit chewy, it was soft and tender.
We also tried Nonna’s Relish Tray, a fun take on the pickled trend. I especially enjoyed the sweet potato cannoli, the eggplant, and the radicchio ripieno (picture in the foreground of the photo above). The kitchen also sent out their melon and prosciutto salad which had the classic watermelon, cantaloupe, and prosciutto sweet and salty flavor combo. The super fresh and juicy watermelon made this extra special.
When it came time to order main dishes, Soo ordered the Canestri with Sunday Gravy which was served with a side of pork neck, meatballs, and fennel sausage.
The meatballs were fantastic, definitely something you need to try when you dine at Formento’s. They are available as an appetizer too.
Jocelyn ordered the Roasted Half Chicken Vesuvio which came drown in au jus and with a side of potatoes.
I went classic Italian and ordered the Carbonara. Served with fresh bucatini pasta and an egg yolk in the center, and just the right amount of pepper to contrast with the Pecorino Romano, Formento’s carbonara was outstanding.
You know that I need to order dessert. Soo and I shared Formento’s Chocolate Cake. The size of the portion is perfect for sharing. This cake is so rich and moist. The cake is layered with thick chocolate pudding frosting and hazelnut praline, and covered with ganache. The pudding frosting and the moistness of the cake prevented this dessert from being chocolate overkill.
My friends and I have a lovely evening at Formento’s. The service was excellent and the waitstaff was very knowledgable – and they paid special attention to point out anything with nuts when we indicated there was a tree nut allergy at the table.
Formento’s address is 925 West Randolph Street, just two blocks from the Morgan el stop in the West Loop. They serve lunch on weekdays, brunch on weekends, and dinner 7 nights a week. They do accept reservations.