For more than 20 years, Coco Pazzo (which means "crazy chef") has been one of Chicago's best Italian restaurants. A wide-open converted loft combining exposed timbers and white-linen tables, Coco Pazzo's look perfectly matches chef Federico Comacchio's fine-dining presentations of rustic Tuscan cuisine.
Its Restaurant Week menus ($22 lunch, $44 dinner; 300 W. Hubbard St., 312-836-0900) offer a nice mix of Coco Pazzo classics and newer dishes. It took strength, for instance for me to pass on the rigatoni alla butera (pasta with sausage and peas in a parmesan-cheese sauce), a dish I've enjoyed many times here. (Ditto for the flattened and breaded pork chop.)
At dinner, the first course consists of soft and creamy burrata cheese paired with a vegetable terrine with zucchini, olives and tomato gelee. Second-course options include a beautiful asparagus risotto, at once toothsome and creamy, which arrives so piping-hot you'll need to nibble around the edges to start. And among the stars of the main-course choices is meltingly tender short ribs in a zingy, slightly acidic chianti sauce, served over organic polenta and cooked Swiss chard. It's a perfect, hearty choice for Chicago's miserably cold weather.
For dessert, there is classic panna cotta with huckleberry sauce, and a fondente — chocolate cake with an oozy, molten-chocolate center, served with cappuccino gelato and dots of chocolate ganache. Yes, molten-chocolate cake is a culinary cliche. It didn't stop me from eating every morsel.
Chicago Restaurant Week features restaurants offering three-course lunches ($22) and three- and four-course dinners ($33, $44). Chicago Restaurant Week runs through Feb. 6; for participating restaurants, menus and online reservations, go to choosechicago.com.
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