A Venetian-inspired restaurant is serving some of the best fried chicken and burgers in Chicago. There, I said it. One of the biggest brunch surprises in the city may very well be what's going on at Cicchetti right now, where the brand new brunch menu features a smattering of outré Italian dishes alongside re-imagined, Italian-tinged American favorites.
Under the tutelage of crafty chef Michael Sheerin and his wingman and wingwoman Phil Rubino and Sarah Jordan, Cicchetti has a way with singular Italian cookery. Nothing on the brunch menu is an afterthought or an arbitrary supplement. Even yogurt parfaits and continental breakfasts get their due diligence. While much of the menu is aptly and bluntly Italian, it's the seemingly American-inspired creations that really stun, proving just how dexterous these chefs can be. The fried chicken Mercato ($14) took a mere bite to solidify its mettle as some of the best poultry in Chicago. I would happily eat a bucket filled to the brim with this boneless and succulent jumbo morsels of deep-fried thigh meat. They're heaped alongside a cheese-laden mound of house-ground polenta, making for a nice riff on Southern chicken and grits. There's a cup of salsa verde on the side that is as lustrous as a kale smoothie and as verdant as salsa verde comes.
The only thing more common than restaurants instating brunch these days is restaurants serving burgers. Cicchetti is no different, adding a brunch-only burger ($12) to its menu with great success. Firstly, this thing arrives looking vastly more entrancing than burgers typically are capable of looking. Served on a long wooden plank with some zesty pickles and a side of breakfast potatoes (or spring green salad but lol), the burger is a stunner. Every component is refined and masterfully executed, resulting in a burger that deserves attention alongside its more blatantly brunch-focused counterparts like eggs and French toast. It begins with a house-baked brioche bun, striated with two beef patties, fried mortadella, jammy caramelized onions, and aged provolone. It's quite large, so it might necessitate deconstructing and eating like a ground beef tartine. But that's between you and your jaw.
After all that fried chicken and beef, you'll want to wash it down with something sweet and refreshing. The menu at Cicchetti is mercifully lax on overtly sweet dishes, but one nice way to cap off a meal in a dainty way is with one of their vigorous cocktails. The Rossini ($8) is especially apropos right now, a bellini-like beverage lush with spring flavors of strawberry puree and rhubarb bitters, splashed with Prosecco.
Going in for brunch at Cicchetti, I already knew the restaurant was capable of outstanding Italian food. I've eaten dinner there, I've been wowed. What is really surprising and impressive is their work fine-tuning items more commonplace on American menus. The greatest stunners on the Ciccetti brunch menu are the simplest, and that speaks to the talents running the ship.