photo: Laura Windt
Putting three heads together to open a restaurant can turn into a "too many cooks" scenario in seconds flat. Luckily, the ties between Prosecco co-owners Kathryn Sullivan Alvera and Mark and Stefania Sparacino (of Sparacino's
in Oak Park) are too strong to permit any discord; Mark and Stefania are siblings, and Kathryn has been buddies with the duo for more than 10 years.
Along with a liking for one another, the threesome shares a passion for all things Italian. "I love Italy," says Chef Mark Sparacino. "I enjoy the diversity of the food, the wine and the people in all 20 regions." So on his menu, Sparacino pays homage to all 20 of his loves.
When the owners are asked about their favorite dishes, Stefania says: "I'm partial to the galetto ripieno all papalina, a Cornish game hen stuffed with polenta, porcini, chestnut, mild sausage and black truffle." Kathryn has a penchant for the house-signature risotto serenissima. Served to Italian nobility in the 16th century, the lobster-and-saffron-studded risotto is topped with edible gold. Chef himself adores the costoletta di vitello al cartoccio, a veal chop topped with prosciutto, caramelized onions and mushrooms. The dish is baked in parchment paper and opened tableside.
True to its name, the restaurant offers a sparkling roster of 50 varietals of Italian wine, which appears in places other than the flute: "I love cooking with sparkling wine," Chef Sparacino says. "The subtle floral flavors make a great base for many of our dishes."
The restaurant's elegant decor channels 16th-century Venice with gold walls; silk and damask seating, a mother-of-pearl ceiling and an antique, hand-painted and mirrored bar. "We wanted to create a warm and pretty atmosphere in which to entertain our friends, old and new," Kathryn says. "There's a tip of the hat to the former glory of Venice, but we really didn't want the restaurant to be viewed as precious. It's a fun neighborhood joint that serves great food and great wine."
Average cost: $31+
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg