Sofi spreads northern Italian to the near south

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Risotto alla Milanese, Sofi

Some sort of fraternal struggle went down that prompted Maurizio Michi to leave Riccardo Trattoria, the Lincoln Park classic northern Italian spot he ran with his brother Riccardo. That's not our business, but the familial discord has led to a happy development for Printers Row, since the former opened Sofi Restaurant, with an MO not terribly far removed from the spirit, if not menu, from Riccardo.

There are a few dish duplications on Sofi's menu, and it's almost as large as Riccardo's—featuring the typical structural breakdown: hot and cold antipasti, salad, pasta, meat, fish, and vegetal contorni. And as far as atmospherics go it has a comparably restrained, kitschless vibe (I only heard Sinatra once on the sound system). But one thing Sofi offers that Riccardo doesn't is risotto alla Milanese, the saffron-tinged marrow-rich classic typically served with ossobuco. You can certainly order that combo as a secondi, but if you get it as primi it comes topped with a nontraditional, almost southern Italian-style sausage ragout that cuts through the richness with tomatoey acidity. And someone in the kitchen really knows how to cook rice properly, each grain is distinct and al dente, none overwhelmed by the fatty cooking medium.

Tegamino Polpettine, Sofi

Like a lot of northern Italian food, dishes can be rich and heavy with a lot of dairy-boosted sauces, like paccheri with heavily smoked bacon in a sagey, creamy tomato sauce, or pappardelle with duck ragout that's tossed with julienned carrots, onions, and celery. You'll even come across it in a number of antipasti like soft, tender veal meatballs, or slices of eggplant, both in tomato cream sauces, and grilled octopus and "crushed" potatoes with a butter-extended pesto sauce.

The brothers Michi were born into a celebrated Milanese restaurant* family, and in these times of spurious and superficial Italian food, it's good to see such a satisfyingly rich, if restrained, almost conservative, approach spreading to other parts of the city.

Polipetto Genovese, Sofi

Sofi Restaurant, 616 S. Dearborn, 312-753-5504

*Al Girrarosto da Cesarina

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