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Cozy Italian After Dark at Anteprima

By Anthony Todd in Food on Dec 1, 2010 5:00PM

Sometimes, meals seem to pass beyond the ordinary and into a glowing imaginary realm. This can happy for any number of reasons - good food, good company, flirtation, the right night, the perfect cocktail - and it rarely has anything to do with the price of the food. Those wonderful nights, and the restaurants that create them, have to be savored and shared. We were lucky enough to be lulled into one of those nights by Anteprima, and we cannot recommend it highly enough.

Anteprima is our favorite kind of restaurant - a modest, unpretentious neighborhood spot that does everything right. They serve what they call "regionally-inspired, rustic" Italian home cooking. The food is good, generously portioned and well-priced, the service is deferential and accommodating and the menu is just creative enough that we were pleasantly surprised. Witness the orecchiette, made with bitter greens, chilis and sausage, a standard enough dish. But made with lamb sausages, as at Anteprima, it is a dish that inspires a raised eyebrow when scanning the menu.

Certainly not a cocktail destination, they nevertheless mixed up a rosemary vodka martini that had us stealing sips from our companion's cocktail glass, though the drink was so strong that there was plenty to steal. For starters, try the grilled octopus, a heaping collection of potatoes, red onions, lemon and parsley (and of course, plenty of the starring cephlopod) or a small portion of pasta ($10). We enjoyed the rich and mild spaghetti with lobster, leeks and orange, a combination we are now obsessed with replicating in our home kitchen. If you want something simple, marinated olives with garlic, chilis and oranges satisfy. The chef at Anteprima clealy appreciates the combination of orange zest with savory foods, as it appears over and over on the menu - but it works, so we won't complain.

After the appetizer and pasta lists, we frankly can't imagine moving onto a main dish. But, if you feel the need, try the panchetta-wrapped venison with wild mushrooms ($22). A collection of Italian amaros rounds out the dessert drink list - hard to find in the states, these bitter liquors are worth seeking out.

Head to Anteprima on a cold, snowy night this winter. Bring a good friend and settle in to one of the back tables with a good bottle of wine and cruise through the menu. Be prepared to be happily satisfied.

Anteprima is located at 5316 N. Clark Street.