9/25/2012 12:24:00 PM

First Look: Dinner at Piccolo Sogno Due in River North

We teamed up with the new spot from the Piccolo Sogno team, Piccolo Sogno Due, for a night of Italian memory-inspired food with wine pairings. The menu was created from childhood memories of both co-owner Ciro Longobardo and chef Todd Stein, incorporating select items from their regular menu that represent what they grew up eating. Due differs from the original location in its focus on fish. Coastal and regional seafood is the name of the game here, with about 70% of the menu including some sort of sea fare, whereas Piccolo Sogno is a trattoria-style eatery.

The first course was polpo: oven-roasted octopus with sweet peppers, fingerling potatoes, frisee and tonnato sauce (comparable to mayonnaise, but made with tuna, 15-year-old balsamic vinegar and olive oil), and served with a nutty, floral white wine. But the star of the offerings at Piccolo number two was the tortelli. It's an unraveled version of the signature “Ravioli Piccolo Sogno,” here it's stuffed with buffalo milk ricotta and parmesan, butter, pistachios and house made saba (grape juice that’s fermented and reduced, to give this dish the sweet in juxtaposition with the savory).

Diners then had a choice of two entrees: the Luccio (sauteed pike with cured pancetta, clams, lemon, white wine and white beans) or the Poletto (a roasted half amish chicken with soft polenta, peperonata and paired with an Ajello red wine). Desserts inluded “espresso con panna” with espresso granite (shaved ice) and vanilla whipped cream, and the “tavoletta,” layers of rich chocolate and Sicilian pistachio mousse with amarena cherries so rich in their sauce they tasted boozy.

Newman made rounds to all the tables to answer questions and explain some of the inspiration behind the “Meal of Memories.” Most of the dishes were done in a traditional style that would be seen in the southern region of Italy, and it was clear these were their favorite options from their menu. While anyone who has been to the original location can attest that there’s no beating that patio, Due has a serious edge with their menu full of fresh seafood offerings. Memories of our own = created.

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