Serious Eats: Chicago
TGI Fry-Day: Beet Goat Cheese Arancino from Letizia's Fiore
Arancini are, at least in theory, a fried food connoisseur's dream. Creamy, cooked arborio rice is rolled around some sort of filling (usually entailing cheese) before being breaded and fried until crisp. How could this ever be bad? In a word: preproduction. Most Italian delis seem to make and fry their arancini in advance and either microwave them to order or pass them across the counter cold. Neither of which, as you can imagine, produces anything less than chewy, gummy gut bombs that leave you wondering why exactly Italians are eating deep fried rice balls in the first place.
But the various arancini that they're putting out at Letizia's Fiore serve as a gentle reminder of just why this appetizer is so appealing. Cracking into the Beet Goat Cheese Arancino ($4.50 solo, $7.50 with soup) is visually stunning—its dark pink stained rice shockingly contrasts its pure white center. It's properly assembled, too, which means that all the components remain deferentially within their crunchy shell at all times. My only qualm was the unannounced use of truffle oil, which has such a bold and demanding flavor that I appreciate an advance warning. While the goat cheese more than held its tangy ground, the earthy, roasted beet flavor was mostly obscured by the truffle presence. Minor detail, though. I'd order another one of these in a heartbeat, and I'll be returning very soon to try both the sausage marinara and carbonara versions.