Piatto! Piatto! Italian spot gives Edgebrook a touch of Venice — with Chicago-style portions

By Daniel B. Honigman

With good food, good service and a comfortable yet refined atmosphere, Piatto seems like the type of place you’d find on Randolph Street. But it’s not, and Edgebrook may now have a new neighborhood crown jewel.

In a 75-seat, 1,000-square-foot spot refined enough for foodies and hipster couples, but not too pretentious for children, Piatto head Chef Maurizio Fonda serves organic pastas, fresh pizzas and generous seafood portions.

Since arriving stateside in 1977, Fonda has worked stints in California, New York, Texas and Florida, but has lived in Chicago since 1990. He’s seen all types of American diners, but is happy Piatto, which opened in August, is in Edgebrook. “It’s a neighborhood that has been positive, and I think we’ve been good for them,” he says. “Our customers like the standards, but they’re open to newer things we put on the menu.”

A five-year Stefani Group veteran, Fonda, a transplanted Venetian, has mostly eschewed Chicago-style heavy sauces, but he manages to serve wholesome food in a refreshing way. And it’s clear he has Chicago diners all figured out: He oversees a staff that seems to dote on diners like Italian grandmothers. (Not that I’m complaining.)

Fittingly, I can think of only four words to describe Piatto: Good. Comfort. Food. Lots.

If you’re for starting out a meal with some real comfort food, you’ll want a nice bottle of red wine to balance it out—something bright, but not too full-bodied, like the 2005 Conti Contini Sangiovese ($30). With this on your palate, you’ll be able to wrap your taste buds around some of Piatto’s hearty appetizers.

Both the funghi ripieni ($7), a massive mushroom served with sausage and breadcrumbs in a tasty wine sauce; and the Salsiccia con fagioli ($8), a grilled sausage served on a bed of white cannellini beans, diced onions and tomatoes, are must-tries. For couples, a heaping order of mussels ($8), served in a not-too-spicy tomato sauce, will more than suffice.

Piatto dishes out a bevy of individual- and medium-sized pizzas ($11-$15), as well, ranging from your basic margherita to the Quattro Piatto, which is topped with fresh prosciutto, artichoke, olives and mushrooms.

In the spirit of the season, I tackled one of Fonda’s specials, a super-tasty pumpkin tortellacci dish with shitake mushrooms and fresh herbs in a mascarpone cream sauce. The pasta was surprisingly light, with its savory flavors balancing out the sweetness of the cheese and pumpkin. But if you’re a fish fan, Fonda’s salmone bruschetta ($23), a plate of salmon in a bruschetta sauce, is a simple dish done well.

To round out your meal, Piatto carries a selection of desserts ranging from the adventurous fragole alpine ($8)—an Austrian-Venetian delight that features a serving of vanilla gelato, fresh whipped cream, strawberries and sugar drizzled in a sweet vinaigrette, topped off with ground black pepper—to your standard tiramisu ($7).

The restaurant’s old-world comforts extend to the washrooms, as well: The men’s room is festooned with a poster of the Rat Pack, and the ladies’ room is chock full of lotions and perfumes.

Piatto is a dinner joint, open each day from 5 to 10 p.m. If you’re planning on heading over, stick to a light lunch before, because you’ll be hard-pressed to leave the restaurant hungry. But this is a good thing, of course. Just be prepared to bring home a doggie bag.

Piatto is located at 5304 W. Devon (773/467-2000)

This story originally appeared in the Jan. 8 issue of UR Chicago Magazine. You can pick it up from a UR Chicago box in downtown Chicago or you can read it here.

Piatto in Chicago (You can check out this review on UrbanSpoon.)