Hours: Lunch, dinner: seven days
Saturday & Sunday brunch
Open late: Saturday till 3, other nights till 2
Italian-inspired taverna from the group behind Bull & Bear and Public House; the consulting chef is Fabio Viviani, a former Top Chef contestant.
River North's Siena Tavern is the product of a partnership between the owners of the River North sports bars Bull & Bear and Public House and the LA-based Top Cheftestant Fabio Viviani, whose involvement has included recipe development, schmoozing tables (when he's in town), giving interviews, and taking his partners on a field trip to Tuscany to shoot a promotional video. I wonder how deep it goes beyond that, given that the native-born Florentine allowed his name to go on a menu that misspells "prosciutto" and "tortellacci." One of Siena Tavern's mantras is that everything that comes out of the kitchen is made from scratch. I don't doubt it, but the sheer volume of table turnover results in some particularly careless executions. Pastas in particular seem to suffer—the aforementioned butternut squash "tortellaci" arrived wallowing in a tepid cream sauce glistening with droplets of unemulsified butter, while the interior of the noodles betrayed a line of raw white dough. Pizzas, which have a competently charred but undistinguished crust, are fired behind a bar that also serves fish crudo and house-made mozzarella, like a wet and spongy bufala resting in puddles of oily minced salami and olive tapenade. I liked the little antipasti coccoli, fried dough pufflets arranged over truffle-honeyed sheets of prosciutto with a creamy lump of stracchino cheese, and a supertender, dino-sized braised veal osso buco with farro risotto, brightened by a brilliant green gremolata. There are a few solid salads, too, among them nutty farro clumped with grilled shrimp and squid in a sharp mustard vinaigrette and a simple, tender baby kale Caesar. But in the end, despite all the earnest claims of authenticity, this isn't really a place to take Italian food seriously. Read the full review >>
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Though this Italian food factory brought Florentine native and Top Cheftestant Fabiano Viviani onboard, partners Lucas Stoioff and David Rekhson don't seem to want to abandon the primacy of drinking that exists at their other River North spots Bull & Bear and Public House (you can nurse your own personal vodka tap at the latter). You'll find a list of numbered cocktails based on midshelf liquors such as Bacardi, Absolut, and Maker's Mark, batched and bottled for expediency, and priced at a steep $12, which is galling—even for this overpriced neighborhood—given the small effort required to pour them. —Mike Sula