Fans of chef Lee Wolen's decadent ricotta gnocchi, fear not. The creamy, knee-weakening little dumplings have made it onto his newly launched spring menu at The Lobby, the much-lauded restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel. Well, to be more clear, the gnocchi themselves have stuck around, but their accompaniments have been updated to reflect the dawning season and its peaking produce. Wolen graciously welcomed me into his bustling kitchen on a recent afternoon to show me how he and his team prepare this perennial crowd favorite.
Serious Eats Chicago actually got an early look this past week at Wolen's spring salad, which highlights pea tendrils among other freshly seasonal ingredients. I found out on my visit to the kitchen at the Peninsula that Wolen is bringing those delicate flavors of peas to the fore in the updated presentation of his gnocchi. (Wolen is quick to acknowledge that technically what he's serving are gnudi, not gnocchi—the former is a dumpling made from ricotta cheese and flour, while the latter has a potato base. He said diners are often less familiar with the term "gnudi," so he opts for the more widely understood misnomer.)
In addition to blanched English peas and yellow and green pea tendrils, the springtime rendition of The Lobby's ricotta gnocchi ($16) includes a hit of bright lemon, breadcrumbs, and salty slices of Serrano ham, which nicely counters the rich, milky flavors of the ricotta balls and sweet, juicy peas.
Check out the slideshow to see how Wolen and his team make the new spring edition of The Lobby's ricotta gnocchi.