Cocello. Don’t bust out the flower crowns and muscle tanks just yet, because despite the name similarities this isn’t a drug and alcohol infused desert gathering. Instead, Cocello is Brendan Sodikoff’s Italian restaurant in River North. There are a few big names in Chicago’s restaurant scene, and familiarity with Sodikoff’s is one that will make you seem in the know. Gilt Bar, Maude’s Liquor Bar, Au Cheval, Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf, Doughnut Vault, Green Street Smoked Meats, High Five Ramen, and Cocello - all are Sodikoff joints. That's a serious list. And more are on the way.
Cocello, if you don’t know, is the new occupant of the space formerly held by his only real disaster, Dillman’s Deli, before Deli was dropped from the name, and before Dillman’s was abandoned altogether. It wasn’t so much a disaster as we think a confused idea, evidenced by the fact a pseudo deli was turned into a contemporary Italian hot spot with virtually zero aesthetic alterations.
In short, Cocello is the kind of place a modern day Rat Pack would hang. If Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the boys had to pick a newer place to make their usual Chicago hangout, Cocello would more than suffice. Or maybe that's just the vibe we get from the dark wood, big brown leather booths, dim lighting, and everything else that makes us want to drink and smoke cigarettes indoors. Most importantly, the food is pretty darn good, and along with quality service and good cocktails, it makes for a nice meal. The menu is a good mix of both interesting and familiar Italian dishes, with a real focus on making sure everything is homemade and well prepared. We prefer sharing a few things, and as is the case with most of Sodikoff’s restaurant, there's not much bad to say.
Shaved pieces of broccoli with mint, radish, and lemon vinaigrette. Broccoli salad may not sound exciting, but it's a really good and refreshing appetizer. We highly recommend starting your meal here with this.
Cacio e Pepe
Homemade spaghetti noodles with black pepper and pecorino romano. The noodles are perfect, and the simple sauce isn't too shabby either.
Arrosto di Polpo
Nicely grilled pieces of octopus with a caper-berry sauce that we guarantee is foreign to you. Yes, caper-berries are apparently a real thing, and if you like octopus, definitely give this a try.
A square block of lightly fried polenta dressed with a little cheese, poached egg, and truffle. We would prefer the polenta to be a little creamier, but the runny yolk and cheesy goodness make up for it.
Bistecca di Manzo
A sizeable, quality piece of rib eye with a little Italian style salsa verde and some bone marrow on the side. Enough to feed one person as a stand alone dish if you prefer, but we still like including it in a mess of things to share.