January's not exactly the most exciting month in the restaurant biz--lots of spots close down for a week or two of well-deserved rest, and those that stay open tend to see an increase in empty tables as diners reassess their wallets and their waistlines. But it's not a total wasteland out there.
Recent weeks have seen the appearance of Sapore di Napoli, another Neapolitan pizza spot whose opening raises the question: "How much brick-oven pizza can a city built on deep-dish support?" The enigmatically named Simply It, a casual Vietnamese place from former Pasteur partner Tuan Nguyen, opened this week (after sending us an appropriately enigmatic Christmas card). It's BYO, with no corkage fee, for now. And in news that has the local food mafia abuzz, Geno Bahena (Ixcapuzalco, Chilpancingo) returns today to head up the kitchen at a new regional Mexican spot named after his hometown of Tepatulco, in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero.
In Andersonville next week, the Algerian creperie Icosium Kafe, a spinoff of Lakeview's Crepe and Coffee Palace, opens on the cursed northwest corner of Clark and Foster. The previous occupant, Corner Grille, appears to be only sparsely lamented, but I'll miss their oddly smoky hash browns. (Meanwhile, down the street, Rioja has been abruptly shuttered.)
And finally, Michael Altenberg (Bistro Campagne) says that his all-organic Wicker Park venture Crust (a change from the previous working name, Flatearth), in the works for the last year or so, will finally fire up its own woodburning oven on February 1. Our critics will be getting out to these and other new spots in the coming weeks, but in the meantime why don't you tell what you think by becoming a Reader Restaurant Rater?