After years working in various kitchens downtown, James Gottwald decided to make a change: "I got married two years ago, but we never saw each other, and my son is at an age where he's playing baseball and football. I love fine dining, but I wanted to do this with my family." Last month he left Rockit Ranch Productions, where he was culinary director, and opened up a neighborhood joint that would serve the food that he grew up with in Philadelphia.
The result is Monti's, which is located in Lincoln Square and just opened up on Monday. It's definitely a family operation; in fact, it's even named after his wife, Jennifer Monti. But while the menu lists a variety of different sandwiches, soups, and salads, it's undoubtedly the cheesesteak that most people will be interested in.
In Chicago, we eat Italian beefs (we love them actually). Sure, we have a few Philly cheesesteaks, and while some can be satisfying, none actually looks much like the cheesesteaks you'd encounter in Philadelphia. Why not? You can blame a lot of things, but first and foremost is the bread. Most places in Philly use Amoroso's rolls, and when Gottwald decided to open this place, he knew he had to use them: "I'm sad we can't use the great bread in Chicago, but we gotta use the Amoroso rolls from Philly. That makes us the only place to serve an authentic Philly in Chicago."
Gottwald and Monti are just as thrilled about the other items on the menu. We sat down with the both of them to talk through a few of the dishes that you'll encounter. Click on the slideshow to take a look.