"A great Negroni makes you want to munch like you just smoked a Snoop Dogg's bong worth of hash."

20090702negroni.jpgWhat do you get when President Obama's favorite chef (Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia) decides to do a restaurant side project at an art museum? Based on my first visit to Chicago's Terzo Piano in the Art Institute of Chicago's new modern wing, pretty much the usual second-rate food at usually ridiculously marked-up prices ($17 salads anyone?).

That said, while my first visit was punctuated by disappearing waitresses and clumpy, grainy-sauced, overcooked pasta with 2.5 morels in it and an uninspired trio of $19 sliders, Chicago food-writing vets like Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune and Penny Pollack of Chicago Magazine were foaming with delight.

So, who knows. One thing I do know, much like Big Texan chef Tim Love of Top Chef Masters, is how to get my drink on. And like any good mixologist (which I am not--I just play one in print), one of my favorite tipples is the utterly bitter Negroni. It's a killer tongue set-up for any meal. After a few sips of one, you're salivating like Spuds McKenzie surrounded by a group of TV babes wrapped in bacon-clad bikinis. A great Negroni makes you want to munch like you just smoked a Snoop Dogg's bong worth of hash.

The Terzo Piano version (Negroni Sbaglaito) subs out the gin in favor of a light sparkling wine and a touch of orange essence. The sweetness of the wine tempers the bitterness, making this the perfect entry-level Negroni for those who've been scared off by the real version. In fact, as an advocate for balance in all things (except Korean barbecue and foie gras and Three Floyds' super hoppy beers), I might just make this my standard Negroni.

Terzo Piano

Modern Wing, Art Institute of Chicago
159 East Monroe Drive, Chicago IL 60604 (b/n S Michigan Ave and S Columbus Dr; map)
312-443-8650; terzopianochicago.com

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