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Before CAFE LE COQ opened in June, chef Steve Chiapetti was better known for the Mediterranean and contemporary American food he served at his restaurants Grapes and Mango, respectively, than for French cooking--but he's also headed the kitchens at Mossant Bistro and Rhapsody. He reemerged after a one-year hiatus to join owner Jim August, general manager of Carlucci on Halsted in the late 80s, who also only recently jumped back in the game. After 15 years in retail (he owns two Irish import shops), August converted his Oak Park children's boutique, Kid's Stuff, into this charming French bistro with classic blue-and-white-tile floors, a tin-paneled ceiling, and wallpaper embossed with fleurs-de-lis. Etched Victorian glass shades cover wall sconces, and porcelain replicas of roosters (the cafe's namesake) are perched on a ledge above the cafe tables. Chiapetti's not taking any chances in the kitchen: the menu is classic, featuring a Lyonnaise salad, onion soup, mussels steamed in white wine, and a tuna nicoise. Plats du jour like trout amandine (Tuesdays) and coq au vin (Sundays) supplement the menu. Dishes arrive covered with silver domes, and servers take pride in the coordinated act of unveiling--an unexpected touch for a place where no entree is over $20. The mostly French wine list is moderately priced, with some decent vintages and lesser-known wines. Cafe le Coq is at 734 Lake in Oak Park, 708-848-2233.

The newest branch of a chain with locations in New York and Miami, SUSHISAMBA RIO serves a dizzying combination of Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian dishes in a 300-seat room that will make your head spin. David Rockwell's design features light fixtures shaped like flames hanging from the 40-foot ceilings, strands of glittering beads dangling between the bar tables, and backlit colored glass panels on the dining room walls. The 20-seat sushi bar at the front of the restaurant is a whirlwind of activity. Five of the 11 menu categories are devoted solely to raw fish--not just sushi but also seviche and traditional raw-bar selections like oysters--while the rest of the offerings are South American (braised pork belly with roasted Peruvian potatoes) or Asian-influenced South American (miso-marinated black cod). The cuisine's not fusion; rather, it reflects what's typically available in big cities in Brazil and Peru, where thanks to turn-of-the-century Japanese immigration it's as easy to find edamame as churrasco (the traditional Brazilian barbecue, here served as a combination plate of pork, chorizo, rib eye, linguica, and hanger steak). The wine list has yet to be completed but is already interesting, including several little-known varietals like Spanish Xarello and Italian Arneis. There are also dozens of sake varieties on the list, plus martinis, mojitos, and caipirinhas aplenty. During the week the wait wasn't too bad, but word is weekend waits are up to two or three hours, and things move along slowly even after you sit. SushiSamba Rio is at 540 N. Wells, 312-595-2300.

While the Cafe Cappuccino at 3719 N. Harlem is basically a bar serving a light menu, owners Francesco and Ralph Lappo are taking more of a food focus at their River West spin-off, CAFE CAPPUCCINO TRATTORIA. Don't let the contemporary black ceilings, brushed aluminum fans, and slick tile floors fool you into thinking this place is trendy--the menu is true trattoria, somewhere between a classic Taylor Street restaurant and something you'd find in a piazza in Italy (making it a good fit for this old Italian neighborhood). Preparations are simple, combining fresh ingredients with solid techniques. Grilled calamari and grilled octopus are heavily charred to just the right texture, then doused in a fruity olive oil. There's a straightforward sliced prosciutto di Parma with cantaloupe, but more enticing is the portobello bruschetta appetizer: three thick slabs of garlic-brushed toast piled with fresh mozzarella, charred mushroom slices, and mildly sharp arugula and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. Pasta dishes are served in huge portions; the pasta with Bolognese sauce could easily feed a family of four. Pizza lovers might want to try the panzerotti, baked or fried half-moons of dough stuffed with classic ingredients like anchovies, pepperoni, and mushrooms. Aiming to be a comfortable neighborhood place, it also serves coffee starting at 10 AM. Cafe Cappucino Trattoria is at 1123 W. Grand, 312-733-5488.

Occupying the main floor of the newly rehabbed Hotel Roosevelt is ROOM 12, a daytime-only casual eatery from the owners of the Bongo Room. Large windows on two walls let in lots of natural light, which highlights the jewel-toned chairs and linoleum floors. The eclectic decor suits the over-the-top breakfast fare, most of which requires a sweet tooth to enjoy: French toast is made from lemon poppy seed loaf and topped with a blueberry compote and lemon curd, while pancakes come either crusted in Oreo cookies and drizzled with creme anglaise or topped with crumbled shortbread, vanilla wafers, strawberries, whipped cream, and a strawberry coulis. Savory options include a southwestern-style burrito and a vegetarian croissant sandwich (spinach, tomato, mushrooms, cucumber, and sprouts with eggs and melted Muenster). For lunch there's a selection of jazzed-up sandwiches. Ingredients on the chicken and avocado club include tomato, fresh spinach, melted provolone, pineapple salsa, and cilantro-lime mayo, but the last two are overkill. In fact, most dishes have one ingredient too many--maybe that's why they're priced at close to $10. The sandwiches would also benefit from better bread. Room 12 is at 1152 S. Wabash, 312-427-9972.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eric Fogelman.

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