When the Art Institute of Chicago decided to include a restaurant in its new Modern Wing, it sought a name, chef and menu that befits the prestige and artistic value of the world-class cultural center.
The chosen name is Terzo Piano, referring to esteemed Italian architect Renzo Piano, who designed the stunning space. Terzo translates in Italian into "third," the floor on which the dining spot is situated.
The chef has sterling credentials as well. Tony Mantuano, chef-partner of highly acclaimed Spiaggia and cookbook author, was brought in to apply his artful touch to a Mediterranean cuisine crafted with organic ingredients and Italian influences.
Terzo Piano (terzopianochicago.com) can be interpreted as a culinary art gallery, both outside and in. The al fresco patio offers a sky box view of lush Millenium Park across the street, in stark contrast to a gleaming white dining room that projects a modern, minimalist vibe.
Mantuano's menu has a geographical slant, listing creative dishes linked to Lake Superior, Lake Erie, Wisconsin, Indiana and Chesapeake Bay. Plus unfamiliar -- to uninformed diners at least -- Ocooch Mountain and Pinn Oak Farm. He puts an Italian stamp on walleye pike with grilled panzanella and tomato vinaigrette. His recipe:
Walleye Pike ala Tony
4 6-oz. walleye pike fillets. 2 tomatoes, beefsteak or heirloom. 1 sprig mint. 1 clove garlic. 1 small loaf ciabatta. 1/3-cup apricots, dried. 1 Valdalia onion. 1 tsp fennel seeds. 1 tsp vegetable oil. 1/2-cup EV olive oil. Red wine vinegar. Salt, pepper to taste.
Place fish in hot saute pan, skin down, add vegetable oil. Put in 450-degree oven and cook until done. Cut tomatoes in half, put in roasting pan. Add garlic, toss with EV olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in 375-degree oven until soft. In blender, add cooled tomato mixture, mint and blend. Slowly emulsify in olive oil. Cut ciabatta and onion into slices, coat with olive oil, put on grill or in pan. Pour cup of boiling water over apricots, let cool. Toast fennel seeds in saute pan over medium heat. Mix bread, onion, apricots, mint and fennel in bowl, add vineger, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.