Thursday, August 23, 2012

La Madia, Chicago

La Madia Chicago Collage

La Madia (59 W Grand Ave, Chicago), a Contemporary Pizzeria, is relatively unobtrusive as you approach. On the ground floor of a multistory building, with plenty of parking nearby, or walk from public transportation or your hotel. Clean, simple, modern design greet you upon entrance, with the bar and lounge area to your right, hostess left, and dining forward, leading to the kitchen with its open display. You can also choose to sit at the pizza bar, in a private room to your right, or additional seating to the left. We sat near the kitchen area in the main dining room.
“At La Madia, two pleasures - great food and distinctive, delicious wines - come together. Named for an Italian cabinet traditionally used to knead dough and store bread, La Madia is an urban restaurant that upholds Italian tradition. Every day, our chefs make our pizza dough and fresh pasta from scratch from little more than flour, water, and salt. The wine list is a wine lover's dream, with more than 75 wines by the glass and hundreds of bottles. And every week, we feature two of our favorite wines for just $5 per glass.”

La Madia Appetizer Collage

The menu gives plenty of options, with appetizers divided into three sections: Starters, Bruschette, and Salads. Laima thought about salad, but then opted for the Seasonal Wild Mushroom, Marsala Glaze and Whipped Ricotta Bruschetta instead. A divine choice, might be the best bruschetta I’ve tried to date! I added the Spinach and Taleggio Fondue with White Truffle Oil – served with a puffy pizza crust bread, this was less a typical fondue and more a dipping sauce. I would have preferred it a bit thicker, but cannot complain about the taste, really outstanding.

The extensive wine list (Wine Spectator Award Of Excellence winner) is almost overwhelming, with myriad by-the-glass choices, along with plenty of bottle options as well (including large format). I do have a complaint, yes a complaint about this incredible wine list. There are no rosé wines by the glass. The outstanding Lucien Albrecht Cremant Brut Rosé NV, Alsace, FR is on the list, but unfortunately was not available that night. We hardly suffered though. I opted for the Argyle Brut 07, from Willamette Valley, Oregon, outstanding on its own and with all the dishes we had (it might have been finished before dessert though). Laima went with the Little “B” Bordeaux 06 (Medoc, France), a worthy exemplar of the region. Spotting the Beckmen Cuvee le Bec, GSMC 10, (Santa Ynez, CA). I had to try it—my first biodynamic wine! Laima’s second choice was the Cusumano Benuara Nero d’Avola/Syrah 09 from Sicily, a suggestion by the barkeeper, an inspired choice with her pizza.

La Madia Pizza Collage

Pizzas are the focus here, though pasta, sandwiches, and options are available (there’s a section of the menu detailing which items are gluten-free, a nice touch). Laima went traditional, trying the Margherita, made with Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, Tomato Sauce and Torn Basil – I think of a typical Margherita as one with fresh tomatoes, so this wass an interesting twist. I had to try the Taleggio and 3-Hour Roasted Grapes—a pizza with grapes?! Very tasty and unique, though I don’t think one could eat too much of it at one sitting (I only managed 3 slices). Another I would have liked to try was the Seasonal Wild Mushrooms and Smoked Mozzarella—sounds divine, but we had mushrooms for the appetizer and the roasted grapes were just too unusual to pass up. A menu addition I’d love to see is a pizza tasting flight, wherein one could order 4 or 5 of the pizzas in a small size, to sample, rather than the 1 or 2 that is more likely.

La Madia Dessert Collage

Save room for dessert, as there are plenty of mouthwatering options. Being chocoholics, we opted for the Bittersweet Chocolate Tortino with Toasted Almonds and the Chocolate Polenta Cake with Vanilla Bean Gelato. The Tortino was moist and delicious, a very good choice, yet was still overshadowed by the Polenta Cake, a molten chocolate bit of heaven. I didn’t get polenta in the flavor, but it definitely affected the texture in a good way. Add espresso and cappuccino and it’s a perfect end to the meal.

La Madia is well worth the visit – the creative menu will allow everyone to find something to eat, be they committed vegan or carnivore. The extensive wine list means you’ll find something you like, with suggested pairings on the menu or by one of the knowledgeable staff. Not interested in wine? (WHAT?!) They have beer, cocktails, and other options as well. This is a place that works as a casual neighborhood drop-in option, as a romantic outing, or for a large group (one made use of the private dining room the night we were there). The front of the lounge is a large expanse of glass that can be opened to the sidewalk--this is clearly a spot that people sit to see and be seen.

Other reasons for a visit include an interactive, 5-course Chef’s Table, hosted by Executive Chef/Proprietor Jonathan Fox. Take a seat at the pizza bar and experience seasonally-creative & locally-sourced dishes as they unfold right in front of you, along with wine pairings. Or, join them for their next seasonal cooking class, which includes lunch and wine.

For reservations and more info, check out La Madia's website, follow on Twitter, and like on Facebook.

La Madia on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: This meal was comped for me for review purposes, courtesy of La Madia. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the restaurant a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.

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