We just didn’t know how good.
Turns out: pretty damn good. Though, it’s usually a pretty good time when a meatball is involved.
Hence, we bring word of J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar, another new pasta-and-cocktail joint, now open in River North.
This comes right on the heels of Centro’s debut, but the chef here is Steve Chiappetti, a veteran of places like Mango and Viand who grows his own basil and microgreens on site. His family owns the last Chicago slaughterhouse—which should come in handy for the lamb meatballs. But he has four other kinds—beef, shrimp, chicken and pork—just in case you need a backup.
It’s a throwback to those solid neighborhood joints: soft lighting, white tablecloths and a bartender who had your Calabreeze (grapefruit, Campari, fresh herbs) at the ready when you walked in. Today, however, he knows you also probably want a duck sausage pizza. So he has that ready, too.
But say you’re celebrating. There’s been a promotion. A graduation. A new Italian place with five kinds of meatballs opens. Gather everyone over the farm table in back, order a bottle of chianti and let the night unspool in a procession of housemade tagliatella and long, heartfelt toasts over grappa.
Yes, you can toast the basil.