February was a busy month of travel but I still managed to squeeze in some fun food experiences!
How some gems remain hidden remains a mystery to me! I’m talking about a little place on Elston in Albany Park called, Wellfleet. A fish store and restaurant combined, this eatery quietly exists, until you try their food. After which, the universe implodes! It certainly did for me after my recent tasting there where I got to sit at the bar table watching Chef Leo Bariso (of Morimoto fame) personally cook my food as he chatted with me. Patrons can also choose the fish meat they want cooked, from the frozen, retail section located directly behind the table I was seated at.
The retail section is actually named the Fish Guy, incase you look it up online. Instant service, fresh food is really what this blog should be titled.
I’m going to cut right through the chase and tell you about everything I ate. Fair warning: it will make you hungry! The first item on my pre-fixe menu that owner Bill Dugan so graciously planned out for my tasting, were the Blue Point Oysters, flown in from Maryland. Fresh, chilled, brawny oysters plated beautifully and garnished with a little spicy radish and salsa verde, were also served along with rice vinegar. No doubt those disappeared quickly.
The Lobster Roll popular item on their menu which I got to try, and was on sale that day. The sale version comes minus the fixings (cole slaw and potato chips). Trust me, you won’t miss it. The roll was so tasty that I wanted to scream in excitement. The sandwich filling can actually be consumed as a salad itself. It comes with generous pieces of lobster, cucumber with herb mayo and green goddess dressing.
I had the ocean tacos next, because the guajillo-marinated pieces of pompano and cod, looked all too tempting. Chef sautéed a small portion of the medley for me and them placed them on corn tortillas with a small heap of pico de gallo.
I was starting to fill up, so Chef made me a smaller portion of the Fish of the Day special which were the Hokkaido and bay scallops lightly pan fried and served with a tantalizing homemade coleslaw. Sure the meat was tender and well-seasoned but the slaw was noteworthy too. A tantalizin blend of cabbage, red radish, fennel and sushi vinegar; I was licking my fingers.
As stuffed as I was, I was told not to leave without trying at least one crab cake, which they’re so well known for. So I did (twist my arm). I’m not even sure how to describe this simple and plump fishcake. There was literally no filler, only crab, andit did full justice to its name!
The restaurant itself has such lovely interiors with a beautiful sky light window spanning across the middle of the ceiling, that I remember feeling calm and focused on my meal. Chef Leo is a genius, and adds a little Asian or Cajun touch to every dish, in a meaningful way. Nothing is overdone at WellFleet, yet in so many ways it is above par other seafood restaurants.
No true pescetarian should miss the opportunity to lunch here! Sorry folks, dinner is only for private parties, but I’m counting down the months to my birthday or the next excuse for a party.
What does one’s heart desire on a cold, frigid, Friday night after a long week?
For me, nothing does it like a warm, traditional, Italian meal. Last Friday, I got to do just that at Carlucci Restaurant in Downers Grove where I enjoyed a lovely menu tasting with a good friend in a stylish Tuscan ambiance with some lively tunes playing in the background.
After a very nice welcome, we were sat at a cozy booth in their dining room. And then our tasting commenced! The Sangiovese was the perfect start to the appetizers that followed.
There is just something about a good Burrata at the start of an Italian dinner, and this one was one of the creamiest I have tasted. Drizzled with lemon vinaigrette, garnished with picked onion, and served with warm Tuscan bread.
The Crispy Calamari was light and lovely, crispy on the outside yet deliciously tender on the inside. And that basil aioli it came with was so yummy I wanted to package in my purse.
For Insalata, we tried the Barbabietole Pera with oven-roasted beets and ricotta filled poached pear. Whoever invented that beets and cheese combination should be worshipped! There was also a light honey, balsamic dressing that added a fine touch to it, making it one extraordinary salad!
For our entrees, we tried something from each section of their menu starting with the classic Margherita pizza which came with their in-house mozzarella, fresh basil and tomato. Why yes, I’ve had plenty of good Margherita flatbreads, but this one stood out because of the sheer freshness of each ingredient in thisdish. This pizza was simplicity at its best!
And speaking of simplicity, my most favorite dish of the night was The Linguini. Taste aside; this dish also came in an uber fun presentation. Chef left out the prosciutto for us, but the noodles were hand-tossed tableside in a Parmesan Cheese Wheel with portions scooped out into our plates. The pasta itself was melt-in-your-mouth soft, but the cheese gave it such a creamy texture with the right saline hints. I highly recommend!
What kind of a pescetarian would I be if I didn’t try something from the Pesce section! The Pan Corvino Arrosto was phenomenal, and came with romanesco and Lupini beans. The fish itself had a swordfish type consistency but was still flaky on the outside with a sweet, mild taste overall. Another well-done item on the menu.
Finally the Chocolate Torta A Strati brought it full circle. What can I say about a giant piece of bittersweet chocolate cake with layers of pistachio buttercream, Barolo, chocolate glaze, and a scoop of their pistachio gelato on the side! Need I even describe?
Yes, I was full and yes I had leftovers. But the latter only because the portions are family size meant for sharing. Of course I wasn’t share going to share a meal this good. Instead, I will be devouring for the next few days and waiting to go back when the weather is warmer. And this time I will enjoy it all on their patio!
Downersgrove just got closer! Do me a favor and visit Carlucci soon!