WICKER PARK — Two friends and restaurant veterans are opening an Italian eatery a few doors away from a future Rick Bayless restaurant and about one block south of Wicker Park's busy Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection.
Azzurra Enotavola, 1467 N. Milwaukee Ave., opens Tuesday and is a collaboration between Marty Fosse of Andersonville's Anteprima and Ron DiNella, formerly the chief finance officer for Morton's Steakhouse.
Fosse and DiNella, longtime friends, met each other in the early 1980s.
Replacing Gunner's Pub, which closed in December, Azzurra Enotavola will specialize in pastas, sausages and cured meats and breads. An extensive dinner menu is divided into seven different kinds of pastas, 21 side dishes and seven entrees.
Prices range from $4 to $15 for side dishes (spicy marinated olives on the low end; coppa and other meats from West Loop salumi on the high end) to $13 to $19 for pastas like gnocchi with slow-cooked mushrooms, and a braised short rib over polenta entree.
Menu highlights created by Fosse and Chef de Cuisine Katie Kelly, formerly with the Bristol in Bucktown and Acre, another Fosse-owned venture, include farro arancini, or fried rice balls, with porcini or mushroom cream and pancetta-wrapped, gorgonzola-cheese-stuffed dates.
In addition to dinner, a brunch menu is served 10 a.m. on weekends featuring guanciale, an unsmoked Italian bacon, nocino infused "Italian" toast, and a mushroom and butternut squash strata, or baked casserole dish. Nocino is a dark walnut liqueur from Northern Italy.
To wash everything down, there are several varieties of red and white wines, Italian and domestic craft beers, and cocktails using house-made fruit and nut-based liqueurs.
Among the nine specialty cocktails are a "Negroni," using London Dry gin and bitters, and a "Bellini," made with sparking Prosecco and seasonal puree, all priced at $9.
Fosse told Chicago magazine that in his world crispy Brussels sprout leaves could replace potato chips, and indeed, if that's the case, there could be plenty of fans coming to get their healthy cravings in at Azzurra, which is derived from the word for blue which is the national color of Italy.
For added Italian flair, the restaurant's decor includes large-scale replications of old Italian postcards and vintage phonograph horns fashioned into chandeliers.
Azzurra Enotavola, 1467 N. Milwaukee Ave. Ph: 773-301-2670. Hours are 5:30 to 11 p.m. daily, with brunch beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are accepted online.