Chicago’s is the cities most charming feature. A petite square in the razzle dazzle affluent Gold Coast neighbourhood, the wee park is a local joke as grey haired millionaires loiter while licking ice cream cones in hopes of getting lucky with a buxom blond beauty.
Maxime and I would spend our final evening in The Windy City at the recently launched Thompson Hotel which sits overlooking The Triangle. At ground level this chic hotel offers a wrap around patio perfect for people watching. Our final feast would take place within the hustle and bustle of the hotel’s Nico Osteria. Our trip had been an epic one full of fond memories and we both agreed our experience at the Thompson’s seafood centric Italian restaurant was the cherry on our sundae.
We started off the evening by scooting up to the hotel’s Salone Nico bar. The bartenders here successfully celebrate the European tradition of afternoon aperitifs and low-proof cocktails. We whisked our Blueberry Cobbler and simply titled Gilder into the dining room, sipping through sweet liquid while running our fingers through the restaurants menu.
Nico Osteria is brought to you by the team behind One Off Hospitality Group, a tip of the hat to Executive Chef Paul Kahan and restaurateurs Donnie Madia, Terry Alexander and Kimberly Galban. Chef Erling Wu-Bower’s house-made pastas and fresh seafood, alongside Pastry Chef Amanda Rockman’s unconventionally creative and approachable style are perfectly suited for the setting’s rustic elegance. The kitchens daily changing menu utilizes pristine product prepared to showcase the farmers and fishermen’s bounty.
Our farewell feast started with a duo of crudo, glistening Kanpachi and Hamachi adorned with whispers of chervil, pink gooseberry and hen of the woods. Our hearts stopped as we tackled a large plate of Softshell Crab alla Romana. We eagerly dipped creamy ricotta stuffed crispy into salsa verde and agro mosto before pitching into mouths ajar.
Pasta is perfect here, “eyes roll into the back of your head and skull cracks” sort of bliss. Stuffed Pappardelle is lovingly filled with milk braised pork and adorned with carrots and black truffle while the restaurants signature Rigatoni is dressed lightly with a hearty northern ragu. We wrap up on savoury as a large oval plate is whisked under our nose, an attempt to eat healthy via salt crusted branzino.
Our final bow would arrive as a sweet finish trilogy featuring decadent Nico Torte, refreshingly creamy Vanilla Pana Cotta and trio of house made gelato featuring 68% nyangbo chocolate, hazelnut and apricot sorbet. Wobbling towards the elevator Maxime and I found our eyes crossing. Ready for bed I couldn’t help but smile, died and gone to heaven darling!
blueberry death’s door gin, citrus, honey, amaro cardamaro
ch vodka, spring sorbet (lemon balm / mint / basil) prosecco
crispy potato, corn banyuls vinegar, chervil
pink gooseberry, hen of the woods mushrooms
Beet and Hazeltut Pesto
pickled beet greens, fennel, gorgonzola
Softshell Crab alla Romana
bibb lettuce, salsa verde, agro mosto
milk braised pork, carrots, black truffle
Salt Crusted Branzino
heirloom tomato, aged balsamic, basil
lemon, pickled blueberry, ginger, citrus poppyseed gelato
Vanilla Pana Cotta
white peach, prosecco, honey, tarragon
68% nyangbo chocolate, hazelnut, apricot sorbet