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Photos: A Top Chef Makes Pasta Right In Front Of You At This New West Loop Spot

By Chicagoist_Guest in Food on Nov 16, 2015 6:54PM

By Elizabeth Atkinson

In a neighborhood that’s speckled with modern-upscale restaurants, Monteverde, which opened last week in the West Loop, tries to meld modernism with Italian tradition and a down home feel.

The inspiration for the restaurant comes from Chef Sarah Grueneberg’s life experiences. Grueneberg (who did a stint on Top Chef), along with partner Meg Sahs, spent years working at Spiaggia before leaving to create their own take on Italian cuisine. They chose their spot in West Loop after looking in River North as well, but ultimately decided they wanted an accessible spot with a more neighborhood feel-opting for the feel of Madison over Randolph.

The restaurant has a cozy and comforting feel, something Sahs says their designer really wanted.

“Karen [Herold] really wanted it to feel like you were walking into someone’s home," she says. And it does. The bar is shorter than most, making it remarkably comfortable to stand and grab a verde spritz, a light cocktail in a champagne flute with Hendrick’s gin, basil, lemon, sage liqueur and Prosecco. But the pastificio, where people can see all the pastas being handmade, brings the restaurant together.

Grueneberg said the pastificio is the thing that makes Monteverde different from other Italian restaurants and they weren’t originally sure it work out-but it’s gorgeous. You can watch the team make the pastas in front of you, including tortelli de zucca, a winter squash filled pasta that is rolled, cut, filled and stamped as you order it.

“The menu is just an overall melding of my life,” Grueneberg said. At the core, the menu is about the pasta, inspired by the way she saw pasta being made in Northern Italy. Apart from her time at Spiaggia, which was awarded a Michelin star for three consecutive years while Grueneberg was the executive chef, she traveled regularly to Italy, where much of the inspiration for the menu came from. The menu divided into two parts, “our pasta” and “Italy’s pasta,” separating the modern dishes from the tradition.

The dishes all have different moods, because Grueneberg wanted to make the restaurant easy to come back to, a few times a month or even twice a week. If you’re looking for something comforting, she said, go for the gnocchetti sardi, with cherry tomatoes, basil and house made ricotta.

“When you go out to eat, you want to escape,” Grueneberg said. “Otherwise we’d be eating at home.” And that’s apparently what customers are saying; that it’s like walking into Italy, according to Grueneberg.

Sahs said Grueneberg's passion sets Monteverde apart from your run of the mill Italian restaurant.

“Sarah makes it different," she said. "It’s so personal. It’s such a blend of her life experiences-a love for traditional Italian cooking.”

The complete menu is below.

Monteverde Menu