The menu at Piazza Bella bears one of Virginia Woolf's more enduring inscriptions: "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
And though the tidy trattoria in Chicago's Roscoe Village neighborhood doesn't get directly involved with a person's thought processes, romantic inclinations or sleeping habits, it can make an impact on his/her dining pleasure.
That's mainly due to Tina Maggi, the Sicilian-born chef whose daily production of legitimate Italian cooking keeps customers returning and critics raving.
Before taking over Piazza Bella's kitchen, Maggi had been more than just around the block. Her travels took her around the world, to Bice restaurants in Milan, Tokyo, Ibiza and Palm Beach, Fla. In Tokyo, guests she cooked for included the princess of Japan. A native of Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, she studied at the Instituto Alberghiero in Milan before joining Bice.
Simplicity and freshness are Maggi trademarks. Fruit and vegetables are hand-picked, most pastas and desserts are made in-house, presentation appeals to the eye, portions appease the heartiest of appetites.
Among her signature dishes is costolette di mailino con erbe (herb-infused pork chops), her recipe for which is:
Herbed pork chops from Pizza Bella
- 12 8-oz. bone-in pork chops
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup EV olive oil
- 1 1/4 sticks salted butter
- 2 tablespoons chicken stock or broth
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon ea. fresh tarragon, oregano and mint, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste.
Heat oven to 425. Pat pork chops dry and lightly dust with flour. Divide oil between 2 large skillets, preferably cast-iron, that hold chops in single layer. Heat oil and brown chops on both sides, then transfer to oven and roast for 12-15 minutes. Return pans to stove and add half of butter, stock and wine to each pan. Bring to boil and sprinkle tarragon, oregano, mint, salt and pepper over chops. Simmer for 2 minutes, then serve with roasted potatoes flavored with rosemary and garlic. Serves 6.
Have her make it for you:
2116 W Roscoe St
(between Hamilton Ave & Hoyne Ave)
Chicago, IL 60618