Italian cuisine is love, pure and simple. The kind of love that rubs your senses with unadulterated pleasures and fills your belly with a hearty simplicity. The kind of love that comes from someone – be it mother, grandmother, friend etc. – who wants to see you well-fed and happy in a world filled with worries, tension and uncertainty. The kind of love that puts together classic ingredients on the kitchen table and goes on to create food which celebrates life and stays true to it.
I know that kind of love. We’re not Italians, but my mother-in-law epitomizes the classic image of the Italian matriarch, with her passion for honest food and desire to see us well-nourished and content. Every time she cooks she has to have us try her food, no matter what. Had lunch already? She swears she’ll only give you “one tablespoon of food, no more.” Of course, her understanding of “one tablespoon” is different from the generally accepted one: we get big portions of wholesome dishes, brimming with meat, sauces and all the right spices. Food made out of love – and so yummy 🙂
I had the chance to reconnect with traditional Italian cuisine recently, when my friend Marina and I were invited to a tasting of Italian classics at Trattoria Gianni. Under the direction of chef and owner Gianni Delisi, Trattoria Gianni offers a healthy dose of Italian culinary love in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, right across the street from the Steppenwolf Theatre.
Guests can enjoy Italian food inside the restaurant or outside, on the patio. We couldn’t eat outside because it was raining, but we can definitely imagine ourselves sampling antipasti or calamari on this well-maintained patio on a warm Chicago evening!
The tasting included Italian classics such as meatballs (with and without marinara sauce), stuffed eggplant and stuffed risotto balls (the latter with and without meat), as well as frittata and house salad, all made using locally sourced produce and authentic Italian extra virgin olive oil.
Have you ever eaten meatballs which lacked any meat flavor whatsoever and seemed to be made of fillers, excessive binders and/or lots and lots of fat? The meatballs I tasted at Trattoria Gianni were the exact opposite of these – and they were glorious! Exhibiting honest-to-goodness Italian flair, the sauce-free meatballs in particular had clean meat flavors and just enough fat to render them delicious and binders to keep them in perfectly rounded shape. Obviously, the carnivore in me was very happy, lol I also enjoyed the eggplant stuffed with ricotta and the arancini (aka risotto balls) stuffed with peas and cheese, both of which were served with marinara sauce.
As you can see from the pic below, portion sizes were generous. These meatballs are much bigger than the ones we make at home:
Meanwhile, vegetarian guests could enjoy veggie frittata or orecchiette pasta with veggies. Again, this was simple, honest-to-goodness food:
Sadly, I did not get the chance to taste the gnocchi Trattoria Gianni is famous for. I also wish there had been more salad options available during the event to allow me to gain a better understanding of the menu in its entirety. Having said this, I had a good time at Trattoria Gianni experiencing traditional interpretations of beloved Italian dishes, meeting fellow bloggers and getting a fresh take on the vibrant Chicago food scene.
As you work your way through the myriad of restaurants in our beautiful city, remember: at Trattoria Gianni, Italian culinary classics await you on the patio! 🙂
*Disclaimer: While I received a complimentary tasting to facilitate this post, all opinions expressed here are my own.