As soon as I had my first bite of the Gnocchi with Truffle Cream and Crispy Pancetta at Chicago Restaurant Week’s First Bites Bash, I knew a visit to Siena Tavern needed to be in my near future. Had I known when I took that bite that Siena Tavern was the new Italian restaurant of chef Fabio Viviani…well, let’s just say there would have been some squeals involved. I’m a huge Top Chef fan and the charming Viviani of Season 5 won Fan Favorite for a reason. I had no doubt that my gnocchi was just a small taste of the amazing food Fabio had in store for Chicago.
Situated on the corner of Kinzie and Dearborn, Siena Tavern fits perfectly into Chicago‘s trendy River North neighborhood. Lucas Stoioff and David Rekhson of Bull & Bear and Public House are no strangers to this ‘hood, and they know how to do it right.
Our reservation was at 6:30p on a Friday and we arrived early to grab a drink and check out the bar area before dinner. At 6p the place was seriously hoppin’…from business professionals grabbing a drink after work to girls dressed like they were ready to hit the club…it was quite the mix of people.
We were able to grab a spot at the bar and try a few of their Femme du Coupe cocktails. I tried the #2 and the #4. Both on the sweeter side, one made with vodka and the other with gin. I thoroughly enjoyed both, but the #4 with plymouth, lavender honey, lemon, and creme de violette was definitely my fav. By 6:30p the wait for walk-ins was almost 2 hours…if you don’t have a reservation I’d suggest stalking the bar patrons and swoop in once they’re ready to leave-like I said, we snagged a couple seats at the bar less than 10 minutes after arriving.
Once our reservation time rolled around we were seated at one of the half-circle booths in their large, open dining room. We had a group of 4 and the booth was perfect; we had more than enough room and the arrangement made for intimate conversation while letting us take in the beautiful space around us.
The service we experienced was outstanding-our server Karissa was so friendly and had great suggestions, she coursed our dishes perfectly, and our water glasses were never empty (always a plus in my book). The plates at Siena are smaller and made for sharing. I think a group of 4 is the perfect size if you’re looking to maximize the number of dishes you can try while still getting a decent portion of each.
We started with a few smaller plates: the Burrata from their Mozzarella Bar, served with a delicious tomato jam and grilled bread; the Saba Roasted Bone Marrow with pickled maitake mushrooms and crispy bread; and the Siena Chopped Salad. The salad was good but the Burrata and Bone Marrow were major standouts. I will definitely be ordering both of these again when we return (because we’ll obviously be returning).
We followed up our “starters” with a few pastas. We tried the Short Rib Ravioli, Squid Ink Linguini, and Gnocchi. Again, they were all incredibly delicious and picking a favorite is nearly impossible, but I think the linguini stood out the most for me. The rich, meaty ravioli and velvety truffle cream gnocchi were both dishes I would absolutely order again but the subtle spice of the lobster cream sauce on the linguine was what really did it for me. Plus, I think I just love eating squid ink linguini!
We would’ve loved to go on trying more of the pastas, but we were told it would be wise if we left room for some of their fantastic desserts. We went with the Tiramisu and the Bomboloni. The Tiramisu is Fabio’s grandmother’s recipe and grandma did not disappoint! I like to think of myself as somewhat of a Tiramisu connoisseur because I try it everywhere. Siena Tavern’s rendition is without a doubt one of my favs. Rich and creamy yet it still feels light when you take a bite. Tiramisu perfection!
The Bomboloni is also worth a sweet splurge at the end of your meal. Warm, airy dough covered in sugar and served with 3 different sauces in squeeze bottles-yes, you want this. You can squeeze the whisky-caramel, chocolate hazelnut, or lemon-maple sauce into the bomboloni at your discretion but in my experience more is better!
Of course no meal at the restaurant of a famous chef is complete without a picture with the chef! Fabio was visiting tables in the bar and dining room all night and before we left we asked if we could grab him for a quick hello. He graciously posed for a picture with me and my night was complete! Absolutely fantastic meal, we can’t wait to return!