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Camera in the Kitchen: A Mano

By Amelia Levin in Food on Oct 26, 2007 7:30PM

10_2007_Chicagoist_AMano_Rotisserie.JPGIt’s easy to miss A Mano on the street despite the restaurant’s name hanging above the front door in bright in bright red lettering—because it's tucked under Bin 36 like a secret clubhouse. Owner Dan Sachs and Chef Jon Caputo opened up the new rustic/authentic Italian eatery under their original mainstay, but when we attended a media preview a few weeks ago, it was clear the two want A Mano to stand on its own.

A Mano is basically one giant open space with the kitchen smack in the middle, which helps provide some entertainment if you’re bored with your company. To the side of the front entrance sit a gelato bar and Panini station, flanked by a lounge area with low-slung seating and couches for what Sachs hopes will attract late-night revelers and eaters. Working your way to the main dining room, you’ll notice a string of wine bottles lining the back bar.

Caputo said he designed the kitchen, and is particularly proud of his rotisserie grill, with open flames and a customized “basket” holding chicken, lamb and other meats. A wood-fired oven that he helped design sits directly in the brick wall separating the open kitchen from the dishroom in back. This is where A Mano's thin-crust, rustic pizzas are baked. Some of their pizza offerings include a semi-crispy prosciutto and arugula version, a garlicky meatball pizza, and one topped with a single un-shelled clam.

In a stray from Bin 36, Wine Director Brian Duncan chose to place less emphasis on wine at A Mano, utilizing the drink as a way to complement the overall menu rather than emphasize individual dishes. In a nod toward sustainable food practices, Duncan also incorporated many biodynamic wines on A Mano’s menu.

A Mano is also one of the first restaurants eschewing bottled water in favor of water that’s been purified in house using a treatment system. This particular Italian system first filters the water, then dispenses it into still and bubbling variations that servers pour from carafes at the tables. Following are some of the dishes from A Mano's menu.

Thin crust pizza with prosciutto and fresh arugula.


SALUMI (L-R): Mole salame spiced with ancho chilies, chocolate, and cinnamon, Speck (smoked cured ham),
Sopprassata (pressed pork with black pepper and clove).


PESCE CRUDO (raw fish): Dourade (white fish), bottarga and citris; Ahi tuna, celery & lemon salsa; scallop, spiced grapes & pears


PRIMI PIATTI (first plates): Ribolitto da Delpina [a “fried" (solidified) Tuscan bean soup topped with an egg cooked overeasy]


PASTE (pasta): Spaghetti “pane polpette” di Puglia (“bread ball” made from Caputo’s grandmother’s recipe)


Pappardelle, braised boar & raisins


Country cottage farms chicken breast with a crispy skin, roasted whole cipollini onions and chickpea-like fregola beans


A Mano pastry chef Matt Kelley will be making homemade gelato, having studied the art from a master gelato maker from Italy. The menu offers about 12 different flavors including this coffee gelato, served with a shot of cooled espresso for pouring over the ice cream.

A Mano, located at 335 N. Dearborn St., 312-629-3500, is open 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday with lunch hours slated for this fall.