Pancetta, pork belly, chorizo, bacon, blood sausage—swine rules at A Pig in a Fur Coat, the Willy Street restaurant that opened in late May. Executive chef and co-owner Daniel Bonanno's menu is Italian, Spanish and French with a Midwestern bent. Look for Tuscan-style pork shoulder with romesco and seasonal vegetables, or slow-roasted veal breast served on polenta with bacon and apple kraut. Small plates, like duck fat fries and lamb carpaccio, are rich and ample enough to share.
But the meat-wary (or weary) need not shy away. Recently, Bonanno says, he cooked a three-course dinner for a vegan customer, who pronounced it the best meal she'd ever eaten. "I love meat," he says. "But I can make anything."
He's earned bragging rights. The son of Italian immigrants, Bonanno studied at the Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis, earned a master's degree in Italian cuisine in Florence and was sous chef at Spiaggia, widely considered Chicago's best Italian restaurant.
It was in Florence that he met now-business partner Bonnie Arent. When they decided to open their own restaurant, they borrowed the name from a dish Arent's sister noticed in Kazakhstan, called a fish in a fur coat.
It's catchy or camp, depending on your taste, but apart from the Rembrandt-inspired pig portrait hanging near the bar, the restaurant is short on kitsch. Instead, low-hanging Edison bulbs brighten dark gray walls, and diners rub elbows over long communal tables. Those tables carry one liability, Bonanno says: Customers tend to order what their neighbor is eating. Often that's the ravioli, made with duck egg, pancetta, ricotta and brown butter. Recently, he says, one woman finished her portion and promptly ordered a second. It's the kind of thing that can go to your head, but Bonanno shrugs it off.
"We're not trying to compete with anybody," he says. "We just want to make good food."
A Pig in a Fur Coat 940 Williamson St. 316-3300, apiginafurcoat.com
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