Calo Pizzeria Restaurant
5343 N. Clark
For 40 years CALO PIZZERIA RESTAURANT was a comfortable Italian place beloved for its total lack of chic. But the neighborhood–Andersonville–has been changing, and Calo’s making an effort to fit in with slick new neighbors like Jin Ju, La Tache, and Hama Matsu. A recent extreme makeover includes wood floors instead of the old wall-to-wall floral carpeting, black-and-gray upholstery on the booths instead of red vinyl, and some new windows. The two dining rooms are both nonsmoking now, though smoking’s still allowed at the bar, which has been gussied up with hanging light fixtures and five televisions. Most of the friendly old waitresses are still there, but their ranks have been diluted by a younger set of servers. The neighborhood regulars seem to have vanished; the new, more fashionable crowd matches the decor. About the only thing that’s stayed the same is the menu, though the food seems to be executed with more care these days. The mussels appetizer consists of more than a dozen plump mollusks bathed in a creamy wine sauce, and a salmon alla forno special was nicely cooked and served piping hot, topped with crispy onion strands and a creamy dill sauce. Pastas and pizza continue to be big sellers; also on the menu are steaks, chops, and seafood–fried calamari, jumbo fried shrimp, and sauteed orange roughy. The entrees still come in enormous portions, with soup, salad, and pasta or garlic-roasted potatoes, and the prices are still low–for now.
200 N. Columbus
Before Noah Bekofsky, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, took over at ARIA in April, he worked at the Kapalua Bay Hotel in Maui, and he brings a Hawaiian influence to his new menu with dishes like curried chicken-and-pork lumpia (cigarlike rolls with mango vinaigrette and a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce) and a cold starter of Hawaiian tuna poke (an uninventive but extremely fresh dish of sashimi-grade tuna tartare drizzled with soy and toasted sesame oil). There are a few Asian dishes, like duck-and-lobster chow mein and roasted black cod glazed with a sweet-mirin and soy sauce, served with mashed snap peas. Bekofsky hasn’t done away with the obligatory Chicago Cuts section of the menu, with its supersized steaks and chops, all served with potted onions and portobellos. He’s also sticking with the the Indian-inspired dishes that the restaurant is known for: You still get a plate of naan fresh from a tandoori oven when you sit down, plus four dipping sauces. The vegetable curry, steeped in aromatic spices and accompanied by jasmine rice with almonds and currants, can be ordered in an appetizer-size portion or as an entree. The prices are as high as ever and the room just as gorgeous. The adjacent bar serves small plates, a large array of martinis, and an extensive list of wines from all over the globe, which the staff seems to have mastered.
617 N. Wells
After losing his Andersonville lease a year and a half ago, Hermiz Younan closed his Lebanese restaurant, KAN ZAMAN, then took some time off to travel with his wife, Helen. When they got back Hermiz started scouting for a new location with his son and new business partner, Elias. They found one they liked in June, but it was already occupied by another Middle Eastern eatery: Olive Branch. “So we bought those guys out,” says Hermiz, “then my wife went to Lebanon to find all kinds of decorations.” The Younans have enlarged and redesigned the space, decorating with bric-a-brac from Helen’s trip. A row of sunken tables with traditional pillow seating lines one wall. The menu’s full of dishes that were popular at the old location: hummus, baba ghanoush, shawirma, and fattoush. But instead of steamed couscous and dill rice, they’re now served with fluffy white rice or bulgur. (Entrees also come with soup or salad.) “It’s more like the way we eat at home,” says Elias. There are a couple specials every day. “If you’re lucky, we’ll have the stuffed lamb,” he says. (That’s offered on Fridays and Saturdays.) I found another special, kefta kebab, too salty. Belly dancers circulate in the dining room on weekends.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/A. Jackson.