When you enter the doors to Macello, your senses are filled with a variety of memorable experiences – the delicious smell of pizza being prepared in a wood-burning oven, the murmur of patrons gathered together for a welcoming meal, gentle light from colorful fiberglass orbs, floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with fine Italian wines, and the funky exposed brick and machinery from the building’s manufacturing past.
Since 2007, this wonderful Italian restaurant has highlighted the simple joys of fine Pugliese cuisine, striving to create the atmosphere of a home-cooked meal without all the mess. The area of Puglia, located in the southeast corner of Italy (the heel of the boot), borders the Adriatic and serves as home to some of Italy’s finest seafood and pasta dishes. Macello draws on that tradition to create an Old-World charm with some of the freshest and best Italian cuisine in Chicago.
It is rare that a restaurant surprises me, but Macello did just that. I have lived in Chicago since 2008 and for some reason have never visited the restaurant until now. After this visit, however, I know that I am destined to become a regular at Macello. The entire experience – from the décor to the service to the quality of the food – was memorable. My guest and I were treated to cocktails, wine, and a variety of dishes and everything was superb.
The wine list focuses (of course) on Italian wines and has an extensive menu of by-the-glass options. Each section also highlights specific wines from Puglia. The final page of the wine list has a few carefully curated “New World” wines, but let’s face it – you come to Macello to explore the varied tastes of Italy, so my suggestion is to stick with the Pugliese wines. The craft cocktail menu is also carefully-curated with a focus on Italian flavors and recipes.
The dinner menu is complete yet not overwhelming and Macello also provides a menu with several wonderful gluten-free options. On my visit, my guest and I sampled appetizer, salad, three entrées, and a dessert all paired with excellent Pugliese wines.
- Calamari Ripieni – stuffed calamari served in a tomato sauce. The portion size here is rather small, but the flavors are rich and delightful. This is a good small plate to share with one other person.
- Macello Salad – arugula, cherry tomatoes, and basil served with balsamic syrup & extra virgin olive oil with shaved pecorino cheese. What sounds like a “standard” salad actually comes across in both presentation and flavor as something special. Like so many other things at Macello, this salad presents fresh food, simply prepared yet somehow elevated above the norm.
- Lamb Chop Casserole – a stunning presentation of lamb chops cooked in the wood-burning oven. Wow! I love lamb and this was a stand-out experience. If you’re a lamb lover, don’t miss this one.
- Gamberoni – a jumbo African prawn cooked in the wood-burning oven. The flavors of the prawn are definitely enhanced by the preparation in the oven rather than other “traditional” methods of cooking this sort of dish.
- Pollo e Patata al Forno – roasted chicken in the wood-burning oven, marinated in white wine & Italian herbs. My guest ordered this and both of us agreed that it was one of the best chicken dishes either of us had tasted in recent memory. Generally, I avoid ordering roasted chicken since it’s something I can cook at home. In this case, unless you have a wood-burning oven and a Pugliese chef, you will never taste anything quite like this at home.
- Croccantino – a unique ‘signature’ dessert consisting of mascarpone semifreddo with candied walnuts. This was possibly the best dessert I have had in quite a long while. I tend to shy away from sweet desserts, but this one was just sweet enough to satisfy my guest but savory enough to make me happy. Although I am told the other desserts are excellent, my suggestion is to try this one which is entirely unique to Macello.
Macello is located at 1235 West Lake Street in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. You can reach them at (312) 850-9870 or [email protected]. For more information visit their website and follow their social media conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.