Testaccio - Chicago
Logan Square’s Testaccio, named after an ancient neighborhood in Rome, announces itself as a wine bar, but it is so much more than that, serving classic and lesser known Roman preparations – and, of course, wine! – that will bring you back to the Eternal City.
Aldo Zaninotto (Osteria Langhe) has said he thinks Logan Square is a lot like the Roman neighborhood of Testaccio, so he set up a restaurant in the northside Chicago community with a wood-burning oven that turns out classic Roman dishes, accompanied by a wine list that by itself may be worth a visit.
Many of the menu selections at Testaccio are served on small plates, to facilitate sharing and wine-fueled camaraderie.
Fritto Misto, a mix of fried fish, is an Italian favorite, and at Testaccio, the frying is done lightly, and the fish is of superior quality; it’s served with pepperoncini, endive and marinara, an excellent starter. If you prefer to begin with more veg-forward selections, the Roman artichokes are served simply with lemon and olive oil, and the Seasonal Pickles are a good way to perk up the palate and begin any dinner any time of year.
Testaccio serves juicy, flame-broiled skewers of lamb, swordfish and beef, as well as several pasta dishes including the super simple Cacio e Pepe (basically noodles dressed with cheese and pepper, and so, so good) and the more involved Tajarin Carbonara, with cured egg, spinach, and pancetta.
The centerpiece wood-burning oven brings forth many magnificent dishes, including Porchetta (pickled mustard seed, apple, gremolata), Whole Branzino (sprouts, peppers, olives), and Moroccan Chicken (cauliflower, farro, tahini).
From the ample and well-curated wine cellar come many wonderful bottles in many price ranges. In the whites, for a modest $36, there’s a Sicilian Terre di Giurfo, "Suliccenti", Insolia, 2017; in the reds, there’s from Lazio Corte dei Papi, "Ticchio", Cesanese del Piglio, 2018 ($37); if you’re into the more rare, consider the Chateau Musar, "Gaston Hochar", 2011, from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon ($105). There are many selections by the glass.
For dessert, you will have to decide between gelato (of course!), Savory Cheesecake or (our favorite) Panna Cotta with Turkish figs, blueberries, rose, cardamom, and bee pollen.