The Miami Connection
If there were to be another American city in sync with Chicago's dining and drinking scene, I'd sooner assume New York or San Francisco might be the obvious choice. But over the past couple years, Miami has curiously arose as a serious contender for Chicago's culinary bestie. The two cities, worlds apart in terms of weather and atmosphere, have proven to be kindred spirits as of late through the restaurant industry. This is especially evident with the recent openings of two new Miami imports: Dolce Italian and Broken Shaker.
This synergy between Chicago and Miami can be traced to Siena Tavern. After celeb chef Fabio Viviani struck gold with DineAmic Group's trendy Italian restaurant in River North, he next set his sights on expansion to Miami. Today, the chef goes back and forth between the two spots, paving the way for urban camaraderie between the two. Spiaggia's Tony Mantuano followed, opening the unfortunately short-lived Lorenzo in Miami. And following his departure from Balsan, Danny Grant decamped to Miami, where he's clocked time at a number of places. All of this helped set the tone for what currently stands as a burgeoning back-and-forth between Chicago and Miami.
Presided over by New York-based LDV Hospitality, guests at the newly minted Dolce Italian might recognize the brand as a Miami institution. The slick, mid-century Roman-esque restaurant in River North's Godfrey Hotel is new to town from Miami, where their original outpost took home the crown on Bravo's reality show, Best New Restaurant. Executive chef Paolo Dorigato does double-duty at both locations, with local help from chef Andrew Deuel. The bill of fare at this new hot spot is perfectly indicative of both Chicago and Miami's dining culture, presenting a mod version of fresh Italian fare that toes the middle line between indulgent comfort and refined elegance. Along with Dolce's signature veal Milanese, guests can expect housemade pastas, Neapolitan pizzas, grilled octopus, roasted branzino, assorted antipasti, meatballs with polenta, and more. To drink, there are simple, quenching cocktails like the Aperol Spritz and the White Negroni, along with a lengthy wine list of regional Italian varietals. In terms of design, the chic space combines mid-century Italian furniture and light fixtures with a modern motif crafted as an homage to Chicago's iconic architecture. The 188-seat space features a bustling open kitchen, marble accents, an eight-person wine table, and rich orange and brown hues strewn throughout the dining room.
The same week Dolce Italian opened, so did Broken Shaker. One of Miami's hottest cocktail bars, and an award-winning destination on a global scale, Broken Shaker specializes in culinary inspired mixology at Miami's esteemed Freehand Hostel/Hotel. The cocktail juggernaut has officially expanded to Chicago, setting up shop in the former Tokyo Hotel, not just with a bar, but with an entirely new Freehand Hostel as well. Upon entry, guests are greeted by a coffee shop called Cafe Integral, which features house-roasted Nicaraguan coffee beans, bracing mochas, and flaky pastries. The environment is very Miami, with rustic coffee cups that look as if they've been molded out of clay, and a warm cafe/lounge area reminiscent of a beachy nook. Further back in the hotel is Broken Shaker, the crown jewel of the property. Here you'll find a dim cocktail den bedecked with nautical provisions. The bar itself may seem diminutive, but the drinks are quite mighty. Think Cocoa Puff Old Fashioneds, Banana Manhattans, and cocktails infused with papaya bread milk, among many others. Food-wise, the dining program is geared towards share plates, featuring primarily small dishes like beef jerky, octopus, and Burrata, along with a couple larger options like a double-pattied burger.
Looking forward to seeing what else this newly forged, unique city bond will bring.
- Matt Kirouac