Gaetano's, Forest Park, IL

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

On my second day in the windy city, Wendy and Eran took me to one of their favorite restaurants only a mile away from Forest Park where they live. We had a 6:30 reservation for the bar where we could see the kitchen. Gaetano is a middle aged culinary wonder. He is a musician himself and made a memorable performance in his kitchen for us last night. He was so welcoming to us, like seeing old friends. When Wendy told him she wanted him to cook for us the Chef's Tasting Menu, he took up our menus (which I have to confess I wanted to see) and gave us ice-less water with a thin slice of cucumber and opened a bottle of Pino Grigio. He said he wasn't a big fan of the Grigio but he liked this one because it was similar to a chardonnay. It was hearty and smooth, we all enjoyed it.

When the waitstaff brought over fresh made bread sticks with chickpea garlic puree, Eran immediately said to me, "you better hold off on that, you'll get full quick". I wasn't sure if these two had ever eaten here off the menu, they were such regulars and knew what to expect. But of course, I had to try this appetizer, little did I know the three of us would be served 9 courses. Yes nine, that's not a typo.

The first course was sashimi tuna with sesame vinegar and toasted garlic....we all were amazed, good crunch, delish. Second course, celery root with stuffed morel mushrooms and butternut squash...this one was really good and earthy. Next, shaved pear and cucumber salad with tomato vinegar, salt and pepper....a really light salad that was so, so fresh and crunchy. Sauteed spinach was next, super fresh and just right. Next was cooked Tuna with truffle aioli sauce, then cream of eggplant with fresh mozzarella and pancetta, keep in mind here that there were only three servings of each of these tastings...when I read this it looks like some kind of ginormous feast. In the middle of really enjoying the complexity of each tasting, we rehashed the Brian Koons slapping incident. Brian is Wendy's brother who is ten years older than us. Let me set it up for you...I spent the night with Wendy when we were in the fifth or sixth grade and Wendy's parents made a sit down meal. Brian was there, he was at least a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma. During dinner Brian kept grabbing my feet under the table with his toes. I believe I kept telling him to stop, it was totally embarrassing me. So the next round of pinching I just slapped him in the face...I guess we were sitting next to each other and I don't know where that came from because I don't hit and wasn't raised in that type of family, but the table erupted in laughter, I was totally red and embarrassed again and so was Brian. I think this is a favorite story to tell among the Koons. Wendy and Eran and I just laughed rehashing that night....hahahaha!

Well, let's move on to the tastings, we were served a fabulous bottle of Cabernet for the rest of the meal. It was a Vaca California Cab, 2006 small lot reserve, that Gaetanto said wasn't sold to the public. We loved its depth and was great with the complexity of the each course. Next was a brie and crawfish beignet with ginger sauce reduction, grits with marscapone and morel mushrooms topped with pecorino cheese, these were among our favorite. Although we loved them all because of their size.

By this time, Eran and I were done, totally full, I didn't have the strength to write down two of the next courses, as we sipped on the fabulous cabernet. When we told the waiters that we were done, to hold off bringing us any more dishes, another one arrived.

Thankfully dessert was next and I ordered up coffee to help me come back to earth. The dessert was the most unique, as if the previous courses were so usual. It was three spoons of panna cotta cheese, drizzled with olive oil with tiramisu in a flower pot (pic #4). Eran blurted out, "that just says *&^%!", we all erupted in laughter. I was through at this point but was forced, of course, to try it. I did and it was one of the best things I have ever had for dessert.

This is an outstanding restaurant, one of the best dining experiences in my life. None of us slept that night because of all the rich food! You must, must go to this restaurant, request the Chef's Tasting and arrive hungry. You will not be disappointed.

Gatonno's, 7676 W. Madison, Forest Park, IL

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