If you asked us to describe Monteverde in one brief statement, you’d probably be bored one sentence into this review: Monteverde is a cool space in the West Loop serving modern Italian food.
You know who else isn’t very exciting on paper? Steph Curry. At 6’2’’, 190 lbs, the dude looks more like a wiry high school sophomore than the reigning NBA MVP. On paper, he shouldn't be able to compete with Lebron or Kevin Durant. But watch Curry play and you're instantly hooked. He makes other professional athletes look silly and does things on the court he shouldn't be able to do. And just like you have to watch Steph play to appreciate him, you need to eat at Monteverde to understand why it’s so good.
Monteverde’s quality is built around their pastas, which are as pure and silky smooth as Steph's three ball. Good pasta is common, but great pasta is hard to come by. This is great pasta. It’s all handmade in house, which we know is true because you can see the Monteverde team mixing, rolling, and shaping dough all day in the open. There's usually around six or so pasta options on the menu, and a mix of them should make up the crux of your meal.
Like any All-Star though, Monteverde has a well-rounded game. Pasta is their signature move, but the appetizers are strong, and a couple entrees are an exclamation point on the whole experience. Just when you think the pastas have already won you over, Monteverde hits you with a surprisingly delicious skate wing schnitzel, or a giant ragu full of meatballs, sausage, pork shank, and pasta, which at the current price is a steal. And that’s another thing - portion sizes are practical and affordable. While we often feel taken advantage of by small plates, we feel like we're taking advantage of Monteverde. You don't have to be John Maynard Keynes to realize prices could go up and it wouldn't be a big deal, just don't tell Monteverde that.
We'll acknowledge that Monteverde isn't a total underdog story since it's run by a former Top Chef finalist, but there are more Top Chef contestants than selfies taken from The Bean these days. Being on the show doesn't automatically translate to your restaurant being a success. Kind of like having a dad who played in the NBA doesn't mean you'll be able to do the same, but Steph Curry still gets our vote for MVP.
Sometimes an explanation doesn't do justice. Go eat at Monteverde to understand what we mean.
Skewers of grilled octopus and japanese sweet potatoes over a red pepper sauce. It's really good, but if the question is this or more pasta, we're going pasta.
Arancini are stuffed and fried rice balls, and this version is full of 'nduja, a spicy, spreadable pork sausage. It comes covered in a bit of tomato sauce and over olive oil poached tuna. That last part might sound weird, but if you like tuna the whole thing is surprisingly great.
Salt roasted beets, Bohemian blue quark cheese spread, hazelnuts, and artichokes on toasted bread. If you like cheese and artichokes this is a good starter. It comes with four pieces, and one piece per person is more than enough.
Typical starter, but sometimes you're in the mood. If that's the case, go ahead and order.
Saltimbocca like you’ve never had it before. This isn’t so much a pasta as it is a meaty saltimboca mix rolled up in one big cannelloni noodle. Order it.
Simple bucatini with pecorinio romano, ricotta whey, and four peppercorn blend. The quality at which the basics like this are done is a testament to the great work Monteverde does with pasta.
One of the more plain pasta dishes, but good nonetheless. A generous portion of gnocchetti with a sweet vesuvio tomato sauce, basil, and a bit of house made ricotta. A smart way to keep things simple.
Corzetti pasta with pecan and herb pesto and brussels sprouts. A great flavor combination that’s heavy on the pesto.
If this is on the menu, then you absolutely have to order it. It sounds the least exciting, we know, and we almost skipped it ourselves. But this is perfect pasta. Tortelloni filled with winter squash is covered in a cream parm fonduta sauce with soffrito, bacon, and apple. So good.
Schnitzel is usually meat that's been thinned, coated with flour, an egg wash, bread crumbs, and fried. The same process is at play here, but Monteverde does it with fish instead of meat, and it's wildly effective if you're a seafood eater. It comes over a bit of parsnip mashed potatoes and is topped with a caper salsa verde that pulls it all together.
We're going to tell you a secret, but don't tell Monteverde. They could sell this dish for 50% additional cost and wouldn't blink an eye. It’s a giant dish mixed with fusilli pasta, cacciatore sausage, soppressata meatballs, and a large braised pork shank, all of which is excellent. This alone can almost feed two people, and it’s a great entree to share.