Chicago foodies have followed Chef Giuseppe Scurato from Boka, to Landmark, to the western ‘burbs, to the former location of Ceres’ Table (on Clark) and now finally to the new location of Ceres’ Table at 3124 North Broadway. There are some very good reasons for this devoted following.
Ceres was the Roman goddess of the harvest – the bountiful harvest – and like the restaurant’s divine namesake, the portions are plentiful and the food satisfies on many levels including flavor, presentation, and service.
Dishes are prepared using seasonal, local ingredients with a minimalist kind of style, yet everything manages to be densely flavorful with Scurato’s signature Sicilian flair. Scurato believes that “less is more” in the preparation of great food, and his restaurant is a testament to how wonderful that philosophy can play out.
I was recently invited by the restaurant to come in and sample both the food and the cocktails. Approaching from outside, the facade may appear unassuming but once you get inside the experience is certainly anything but that!
For my visit, I was lucky enough to sample six offerings from the menu:
- Calabrese Pizza (fior di latte, caramelized onions, Calabrian chili, nduja) – Ceres’ Table now has a wood-fired oven in the heart of the restaurant. You can sit at the bar and warm yourself next to that oven as you eat, as a matter of fact! Of course, that means that the pizza is fresh and hot with a crispy crust. The Calabrese was superb with just enough of a bite to give a little heat without overpowering the flavor. I am not a fan of ‘too much cheese’ and the fior de latte was a perfect amount, not to mention looking very attractive as it melted in small pools on the top of the pizza.
- Smoked Swordfish Carpaccio (lemon zest, fresh oregano, neonata conserva, chives) Just when I think carpaccio cannot get any more interesting, along comes something like this. Excellent! The lightly-smoky flavor does not overpower anything and the combination of flavors is intriguing. The neonata conserva is particularly unique.
- Spaghettone Cacio e Pepe (thick hand-made spaghetti, pecorino Romano, black pepper) This is a perfect example of excellent in simplicity. The al dente pasta is tossed with a little of the pasta water and Romano, then sprinkled with freshly-ground black pepper. Who knew that something so easy could be so good?
- Crispy Brussels Sprouts (bacon, 12-year-balsamic, pecorino sardo) I love anything with bacon. Add to that some aged balsamic and you have a perfect combination with the crispy broiled sprouts.
- Orata (grilled whole, rapini, salmorigano, burnt lemon) This is perhaps the best fish preparation I have had in quite some time in Chicago. The whole fish is scored, seasoned, and grilled to perfection. Make sure you pull off some of the crispy seasoned skin to enjoy with the white fish. The rapini is a wonderfully bitter complement to the richness of the fish. This is definitely something to share at the table.
- Venison Ossobuco (parmesan risotto, rapini, preserved lemon pesto) Comfort food at its best. The venison is fork tender and densely flavorful. The preserved lemon pesto adds a zip that elevates this from “good” to “superb.” This was my favorite offering of the meal and one that I will certainly come back and order again.
Ceres’ Table has an impressive cocktail program and no matter what your taste in cocktails, there is sure to be something to excite you. Their wine list is also impressive, all Italian and very unique. Ditto on their beer list – small but eclectic and excellent. For my visit, I focused on the cocktails and I sampled four of the amazing mixed drinks:
- Golden Season (pisco, allspice, lemon, vermouth de Torino) The menu bills this as “warming flavors of fall and winter in a refreshing sour.” For me, it was a bit more on the summery side, but an excellent option if you’re like me and don’t love overly sweet drinks.
- Romeo on Broadway (bonded rye, triple amaro, orange oil) I love anything that is created in the style of a Manhattan, and this is Ceres’ Table’s unique twist on that classic recipe. There is a dash of chocolate bitters involved which gives a delightfully smoky and slightly bitter hint. I loved this cocktail.
- Tip of the Boot (bourbon, dumante, cherry, vanilla) This one is perfect as a post-prandial cocktail. It is very boozy, dense with flavors, and just sweet enough to satisfy that post-meal craving for something with a little sugar. The sweetness, however, is not overpowering and the overall flavor profile is much more towards the bourbon.
- Bibendum (bianco vermouth, dimmi Milan liqueur, lime, amaro, egg white) Tangy and delightful, this is a lighter offering but one that you should try. The wonderful stencil of the restaurant’s logo on the top of the frothy egg whites is one of the most unique and appealing presentations I have seen in a cocktail. I am including a photo here so you can see what I mean.
Whatever you do, make sure you leave room for dessert. Pastry chef Leticia Zenteno has concocted a delectable menu. On my visit I sampled three of her creations.
- Torta Della Nonna (lemon crème anglaise, whipped cream, pine nuts) This is a simple yet lovely preparation. The pine nuts elevate this one and give a very different type of flavor to it.
- Salted Caramel Budino (cookie crumble, whipped cream, chocolate biscotti) You cannot go wrong with a well-prepared combination of sweet and salty. This is an excellent dessert that combines so many favorites – chocolate, cookies, caramel, cream – definitely one that you should try.
- Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée (candied pepitas) I have saved the best for last. First, I love any well-crafted crème brûlée (my favorite dessert), so I was already inclined to like this one. Add to that the flavor of fall – pumpkin – and a variety of spices that go along with that iconic autumn flavor, and you have a nearly perfect autumn dessert.
Ceres’ Table is located at 3124 North Broadway, just south of Belmont. You can get more information by calling (773) 922-4020. Visit their website and follow their social media conversations on Twitter and Facebook. The restaurant is open Sunday – Thursday, 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.; and Sundays for brunch from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The bar opens at 5 p.m. daily.