Ripasso (in Italian: review, (from the v. ripassare) or as it relates to wine, to pour over grapes again) is the new endeavor from the much beloved and reviled chef of the ill-fated Terragusto. The restaurant is reborn in a new, trendy Wicker Park location (next to Nannet Lapore on Damen). The ambience is cozy, well lit—the staff on the night we were there was pleasant and efficient. But the food is the star. Think: Thanksgiving in Italy (if there were such a thing “Ringraziamento” is a scam from exchange students)—better—think wedding reception in Italy.
Being true grazers, we choose the five course chef tasting menu. At $49 per person (the entire table must order it together)—it’s not exactly a cheap date. However, the value, given the volume, quality and freshness of the ingredients, and the sheer overwhelming deliciousness; is pretty incredible.
A word on wine: Mid-range bottles for the most part, but what was most surprising was the origin of the wines. Red’s from famous white regions like Veneto and Trieste; Sardinian wines; and a broad selection of red’s from Sicily, Puglia and Calabria. Highly recommend the Nero d’Avola- light, highly drinkable and a good value at $30.
They started us off with a vegetable plate of roasted beets, shaved salad, and ”minted” carrots. They also brought out what I can only describe as a slightly off-colored flan, with not particularly attractive strips of meat next to it. I groaned internally for a moment, thinking, oh boy- not off to a good start. Thankfully, I didn’t say it out loud, otherwise I’d be eating crow. The warm onion creme mold with braised rabbit was absolutely, irrevocably, fantastic. The effect was a thick, warm french onion soup that literally melted in your mouth as you sort of chewed, coupled with super flavorful, mildly gamey pieces of the tenderest rabbit imaginable.
What followed was a variable orgasmic parade of dish after gut busting dish of thoughtfully prepared, lovingly executed odes to the very best of Italian cuisine.
The risotto. Had everything else not been so amazing, one bite of this alone would have made me a believer. Creamy, buttery risotto with heaping, perfectly cooked scallops, wild mushrooms, positively pheromone reeking of white truffles. Earthy musk meets briney sea. Talk about surf and turf.
The pasta course brought not one, but two incredible achievements- a butternut squash ravioli dusted with crushed peach-pit biscotti, whose velvety pillows of love filled butter, butternut put anything I’ve ever made to shame. The cream drenched, four legged, four meat (lamb, veal, pork, & beef) bolognese over house made pappardelle, also wafting of truffle, was. Well. I’m actually at a loss for words. My mouth is actually watering right now as I think about it. Umami. Game. Cream.
Were I a different kind of person, I would never make pasta at home again, for shame.
The meat course was a sleeper hit; at first it look like my mom’s pork loin, but the sear crust (presumably a dry rub of salt, garlic, and cardimum?) coupled with delciously garlic, bitter rapini was greater than the sum of its parts. After so much decadence, the meat course almost felt like a palate cleanser.
At this point you’re thinking, WTF, what else could you eat? Stuffed does not even begin to cover it.
But there’s more. If you call now… the dessert course. A whipped ricotta stracciatella with a homemade waffle cone was rich, nicely balanced and not at all over sweet. The other dessert plate featured an apple/pecan streusel with a mild panna cotta and raw apple salad. Again, individually, very, very good. Eaten together, it was like apple pecan pie alla mode– the sum far greater than its parts.
All of this to say. If you like things that are delicious. If you have the nearly unlimited stomach capacity necessary to actually eat all of this without being sick. If you have a special occasion. Wow. Just go. So good. Food coma for days.