A trip to a big box grocery store might be convenient, but there’s something satisfyingly old school, even European, about taking your business to the specialty shops where proprietors know the ins and outs of their product and are eager to share their wisdom. These two new Italian spots want to give you a fresh take on making dinner. You should let them.
“When you eat fresh pasta, it’s hard to go back,” says Dario Monni, co-owner of Wicker Park pasta shop Tortello. Raised in Venice, Monni fell in love with pasta early in life. At Tortello, there’s an emphasis on authenticity. Flour is imported from Italy and used to churn out traditional pasta shapes—the chiusoni is made using his grandmother’s recipe—to eat in or take home. You can even watch the process in real time through the shop’s front windows. Recently launched classes have Monni ready to spread the gospel of fresh pasta to a new generation. “Pasta doesn’t come from a box. Pasta doesn’t come from shelves. Pasta has a history,” he says. Each four-person group will roll through the basics of pasta-making with Tortello’s head sfoglina (a traditional pasta-making matriarch), Alex Mulgrove, as well as enjoy a three-course meal. Mangia! Classes $125 per person, 1746 N. Division St., tortellopasta.com
Tortello customers can get an up-close view of pasta-making in the bright and airy shop
Mozzarella Store, Pizza & Caffè
Not everyone can say they have a professional cheesemaker in-house, but for River North’s Mozzarella Store, Armando Vanacore is a not-so-secret weapon. Trained in Campania, Italy, Vanacore can be found handmaking burrata and fior di latte mozzarella (which translates to “milk’s flower”) daily from local organic milk. Order an espresso to sip on while you browse—each is brewed using a pull-down lever espresso machine, the only one of its kind in Chicago. And if you’re looking to up your antipasto game without lifting a finger, get a furore plate ($19 to $23) to go. With your choice of burrata (plain, pistachio or truffle), heirloom tomato, corn, zucchini and Tuscan cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, it’s certainly a crowd pleaser. Don’t worry, it can be our little secret. 822 N. Michigan Ave., mozzarellastores.com