With Quartino, Osteria via Stato, and now A Mano all slinging cured meats, Chicago's downtown lunch arena is sporting more sausage than the Chicago Bears locker room after a big game. A Mano, the newest of the triumvirate, is helmed by Bin 36 veteran chef John Caputo and offers a wide selection of salumi, including the handiwork of Seattle's sausage king, Armandino Batali. In addition to the charcuterie, A Mano features all manner of Italian-focused goodies from wood-fired pizzas to zingy crudo.
I stopped in for a lunch date last week and gorged on the wild mushroom and caramelized onion, white truffle oil, taleggio cheese, hazelnut and oregano flatbread. Featuring a lot of stinky truffle, mushroom, and creamy cheese, it made my afternoon better. Although La Madia down the street has claimed a stake as the artisanal pizza purveyor of the greater Loop, for my money, A Mano is the go-to pie spot. Caputo's instincts for balance like dropping crunchy though creamy tasting toasted hazelnuts into the mix demonstrate a deftness missing at La Madia.
There's even an all you can eat fixed-price lunch buffet, no heat lamps in sight, featuring a rotating selection of artisanal cheese, salumi, and entrées like ahi tuna saltimbocca for a reasonable 14 bucks.
Finally, pastry chef Matt Kelley, who once raced on the NASCAR minor league circuit, knows how to get the heart racing with some seriously creamy, pliant meal-ending gelati.
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