Sampling the Small Plates at Anteprima
Anteprima, a rustic Italian establishment in the heart of Andersonville has one of the better small plates menus I've seen. I found the starters fairly priced for one of the North Side's well-known restaurants—a good number of them are only $4 each. There's something to go with whatever you're having from the wine list. And these artistically plated bites are served alongside a basket of fresh focaccia and twiggy grissini, so even if that buttery fried egg or bowl of fresh olives doesn't do it for you, you still don't leave hungry.
I ordered five, which came out whenever they were ready, tapas-style.
First up were the marinated olives with garlic, orange and chilis ($4), visibly flecked with chili but not noticeably spicy. They did have the most intriguing flavor and aroma of bitter orange peel, and that's what made them stand out, particularly as a complement to a citrusy white wine or generously hopped pale ale.
Next came the grilled lamb meatballs with baby spinach and lemon yogurt ($9). I have never eaten meatballs grilled before, but the charred crust on the outside of these babies shows you what it can do. I liked the almost sausage-like flavor, but they were a tad dry on the inside. This would have been helped by a thicker and heartier dipping or drizzling sauce; as it was, the runny yogurt wilted into the meatballs without adding much in the way of flavor or moisture.
The green cauliflower caponata with Sicilian relish, pinenuts, capers and olives ($4) was the most difficult to photograph in any sort of appealing way. I finally gave up pushing the cold, tomato-y, homogenously colored pile around on the plate and ate it. Despite not being much of a looker, it was actually among my favorite plates of the evening. It was a tad sweet, briney with the chewy capers and olives, crunchy from the blanched cauliflower, and strung with sautéed onions. I love a wide spectrum of texture in one bite, and this did it for me.
The farm egg with cauliflower puree, spicy vinaigrette and crispy prosciutto ($9) was a creamy, rich take on bacon and eggs. The sunny-side-up egg was fried until the edges were about as crisp as the salty bits of melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto littering the top, and it lay in a shallow pool of the most fascinating, buttery cream made by blitzing the heck out of cooked cauliflower. The puree didn't have a lot of punch in terms of flavor, but ran silkily into the yolk and the pair made a sauce that practically begged to be sprinkled with salt and swabbed up with focaccia. The vinaigrette could have been spicier, but that could just be me; still, I'd order it again.
The grilled polenta with slow cooked market greens, spring onions and tomatoes ($8) arrived last, perched on a pile of once-tough greens that had been braised into soft submission in a simple tomato broth. The chewy crust on the polenta square's exterior gave way to a silky inside, which was seasoned in a friendly way that gave neither the corn, nor the butter, nor the herbs, nor the broth supreme prominence. It's a humble dish, as polenta ought to be.