Due LireAddress: 4520 N. Lincoln Ave.
I am extremely picky when it comes to Italian restaurants, but when friends ask for a recommendation in Lincoln Square I do not hesitate to point them in Due Lire’s direction. Because a place that can get me excited about olives (among other things) deserves to be known throughout Chicago.
I was originally going to wait until the self-proclaimed wine bar got their liquor license before I published a review, but the wave of positive comments online hurried me into the cozy spot.
Owner Massimo Di Vuolo calls his restaurant the “final act of a dream” that started during his childhood in Napoli, where he grew up watching his grandmother and mother cook traditional meals. This commitment to family shines through in Di Vuolo’s easy-going hosting skills. Even though our party of four turned into five with the addition of a well-behaved baby, we were quickly accommodated and never felt rushed.
Chef Kevin Abshire, on the other hand, grew up in Louisiana, but his extensive experience working in Italian restaurants showed throughout the plates that arrived on our table. When our encyclopedic server described the meat and cheese plate ($16), we knew we had to start off with the house-cured salumi, imported formaggi and homemade jams. The starter was accompanied by garlicy, charred toast that could stand up to the bold flavors coming from the proteins. And then there were those olives… I could wax poetic about how I’ve never tasted olives that fresh, but I will spare you that embarrassment.
We cleansed our palettes with roasted cauliflower soup ($6) and arugula salad ($7) before diving into some pastas ($13-$17). The risotto of the day had braised lamb on top (and a chorus of “bravos” after the first bite), and another dining companion ordered the ravioli filled with braised short rib. But I was so enamored with my Tortelloni Ripieni (ricotta-and-swiss-chard-filled tortelloni in browned butter-sage sauce and toasted chestnuts) that I can only assume his clean plate meant he was totally satisfied.
At that point we couldn’t face the thought of Secondi (a handful of meat and fish dishes range from $16-$19), so we headed straight for the Dolci ($6). Small portions of traditional tiramisu and pecan crumbled apple tart were eagerly devoured. Despite being in the dead of winter I still wanted to try the tangerine and blood orange sorbetto (flavors vary by week), and I had no trouble finishing it off.
The location seems somewhat cursed, and the layout still feels a little awkward, but this new crew is off to a flying start. I’m not the only one recommending Due Lire, so do yourself a favor an make a reservation before you go.