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Pensiero Ristorante (was Va Pensiero), Evanston

Pensiero Ristorante (was Va Pensiero), Evanston
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  • Post #61 - November 2nd, 2010, 11:13 am
    Post #61 - November 2nd, 2010, 11:13 am Post #61 - November 2nd, 2010, 11:13 am
    David Hammond wrote: Apres jazzfood, le deluge



    I just had dinner at Bistro Bordeaux this last Saturday and it was great, a simple but well executed menu. Hopefully he continues the trend over at Pensiero. I hope everything works out for both places.
  • Post #62 - November 2nd, 2010, 11:23 am
    Post #62 - November 2nd, 2010, 11:23 am Post #62 - November 2nd, 2010, 11:23 am
    Chef Mnuk's style of cuisine at Bistro Bourdeaux is certainly very different from Jazzfood's (I don't mean French vs. Italian), but simple versus electrifying. It is clear that all of the money that was spent on Alan's redesign of the menu was, well, a stimulus package with little lasting effect. I wish everyone well, most particularly Jazzfood.
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #63 - December 7th, 2010, 2:34 pm
    Post #63 - December 7th, 2010, 2:34 pm Post #63 - December 7th, 2010, 2:34 pm
    The big ole’ door at Pensiero keeps revolvin’
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #64 - December 7th, 2010, 2:39 pm
    Post #64 - December 7th, 2010, 2:39 pm Post #64 - December 7th, 2010, 2:39 pm
    There goes that Michelin star. :P
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #65 - December 7th, 2010, 2:50 pm
    Post #65 - December 7th, 2010, 2:50 pm Post #65 - December 7th, 2010, 2:50 pm
    Hopefully Frank Mnuk can get back in at Bistro Bordeaux, that place was great when he was in charge of the kitchen.
  • Post #66 - December 8th, 2010, 12:31 am
    Post #66 - December 8th, 2010, 12:31 am Post #66 - December 8th, 2010, 12:31 am
    I really wanted this place to return to, or exceed, the heights of the days of Peggy Ryan, in part because it's only three blocks from my place, and in part because in its heyday it was among the best Italian restaurants in the region. And it appeared to be headed in that direction under Jazzfood. After the management chose not to renew his contract, they brought in high-profile NYC chef Christian Fantoni. He lasted about nine days. His quote: “If you hire me as executive chef, I expected to be treated with respect.”
    After limping along with some competent cooks, but without a chef to direct them, they brought in Frank Mnuk from Bistro Bordeaux. He lasted, maybe two weeks, and told TOC that his advice to other chefs in the city who may consider joining Pensiero: “I wouldn’t do it.”
    Is it possible the issue isn't with the chefs, but with the owners?
  • Post #67 - December 8th, 2010, 6:38 am
    Post #67 - December 8th, 2010, 6:38 am Post #67 - December 8th, 2010, 6:38 am
    I know I'd have second thoughts of spending my money at a resturaunt that hasn't had a steady executive chef in 3-4 months. According to Mnuk in that article the kitchen was a mess when he first came in.
  • Post #68 - December 8th, 2010, 11:31 am
    Post #68 - December 8th, 2010, 11:31 am Post #68 - December 8th, 2010, 11:31 am
    I was back in the kitchen a few times when Alan was working there, and to these untrained eyes, it didn't seem like a mess.
  • Post #69 - December 22nd, 2010, 4:19 pm
    Post #69 - December 22nd, 2010, 4:19 pm Post #69 - December 22nd, 2010, 4:19 pm
    According to the new Dish column/e-mail from Chicago magazine, the new chef (the fourth since July) is Joe Wojciechowski, formerly of Restaurant Michael in Winnetka. He plans to stay with the current menu and its focus on Italian cuisine.
  • Post #70 - December 22nd, 2010, 4:34 pm
    Post #70 - December 22nd, 2010, 4:34 pm Post #70 - December 22nd, 2010, 4:34 pm
    Is the current menu, Alan's menu?
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #71 - December 22nd, 2010, 4:51 pm
    Post #71 - December 22nd, 2010, 4:51 pm Post #71 - December 22nd, 2010, 4:51 pm
    GAF wrote:Is the current menu, Alan's menu?

    I don't know. The article quotes Wojciechowski as saying, "We are staying in the Italian mode. The menu is going to stay pretty much the Pensiero menu that it’s been."
  • Post #72 - December 22nd, 2010, 5:47 pm
    Post #72 - December 22nd, 2010, 5:47 pm Post #72 - December 22nd, 2010, 5:47 pm
    I'm taking bets here on how long Wojciechowski will last. I say he'll be gone by Jan 31. Any takers?
  • Post #73 - October 11th, 2011, 7:05 am
    Post #73 - October 11th, 2011, 7:05 am Post #73 - October 11th, 2011, 7:05 am
    I read this over at chicago.eater.

    "Hoping to change things up, Evanston's Pensiero Ristorante has tapped Brandon Baltzley to head up its kitchen. Baltzley has been working at the restaurant, along with sous chef Kevin McMullen (Kith & Kin), for three weeks, but wanted to get things in line and revamp the menu before making any sort of announcement..."

    http://chicago.eater.com/archives/2011/ ... n.php#more
  • Post #74 - October 11th, 2011, 12:54 pm
    Post #74 - October 11th, 2011, 12:54 pm Post #74 - October 11th, 2011, 12:54 pm
    Note that the Tagliatelle al Tartufo, a "signature dish" that stays on the menu, was created by Jazzfood. (Although he possibly may have picked up on the concept from the previous restaurant in the space, Va Pensiero.)
    Last edited by nr706 on October 30th, 2011, 2:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #75 - October 30th, 2011, 2:03 pm
  • Post #76 - October 30th, 2011, 2:17 pm
    Post #76 - October 30th, 2011, 2:17 pm Post #76 - October 30th, 2011, 2:17 pm
    I imagine that it would take Gordon Ramsay several seasons to save Pensiero, or perhaps simply a new owner. At any rate, the changes makes for great reality TV at a distance.
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #77 - October 30th, 2011, 8:31 pm
    Post #77 - October 30th, 2011, 8:31 pm Post #77 - October 30th, 2011, 8:31 pm
    Wow, I was planning on going in to try Brandon's food this week. So much for that.
  • Post #78 - October 31st, 2011, 5:49 am
    Post #78 - October 31st, 2011, 5:49 am Post #78 - October 31st, 2011, 5:49 am
    From what I've read it looks like that owner will be out of the restaurant business, helped along by expensive inconsistent food.
  • Post #79 - October 31st, 2011, 5:57 pm
    Post #79 - October 31st, 2011, 5:57 pm Post #79 - October 31st, 2011, 5:57 pm
    EvanstonFoodGuy wrote:From what I've read it looks like that owner will be out of the restaurant business, helped along by expensive inconsistent food.

    Really? I've heard or read no such thing. Can you point to a specific link or are you just connecting the dots between comments made here and what you believe will be the eventual outcome for Pensiero?

    Whether you like the place/owner or not, I think it's somewhat irresponsible to imply that the place is going out of business without at least citing a source.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #80 - November 1st, 2011, 5:43 am
    Post #80 - November 1st, 2011, 5:43 am Post #80 - November 1st, 2011, 5:43 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:
    EvanstonFoodGuy wrote:From what I've read it looks like that owner will be out of the restaurant business, helped along by expensive inconsistent food.

    Really? I've heard or read no such thing. Can you point to a specific link or are you just connecting the dots between comments made here and what you believe will be the eventual outcome for Pensiero?

    Whether you like the place/owner or not, I think it's somewhat irresponsible to imply that the place is going out of business without at least citing a source.

    =R=



    Wow chill out Its a statement of large number of turnovers in the kitchen which can lead to an inconstancy in the food, and people staying away, which then leads to a failed business. Not a smart way to run a business especially a restaurant in this economic climate. Why is it irresponsible I'm a lay person posting on a forum with an opinion I'm no food writer or paid critic.
  • Post #81 - November 1st, 2011, 8:44 am
    Post #81 - November 1st, 2011, 8:44 am Post #81 - November 1st, 2011, 8:44 am
    EvanstonFoodGuy almost wrote:As a person with limited restaurant experience (none of it professional), and based on what I've read in the media and on various blogs and message boards, Pensiero does not seem to have a particularly skilled owner. Considering this apparent lack of skill together with the recent turnover in his staff and menu, and in light of the current weak economy, I doubt Pensiero will be able to survive much longer.

    I fixed your post. Hope this helps, K_E
  • Post #82 - November 1st, 2011, 9:41 am
    Post #82 - November 1st, 2011, 9:41 am Post #82 - November 1st, 2011, 9:41 am
    EvanstonFoodGuy wrote:Why is it irresponsible

    It would be irresponsible to make this statement about a restaurant if it is not true: "I've read that this place is going out of business." Readers would erroneously think that the restaurant is in the process of discontinuing operations.

    Your original post is worded in a way similar to the above statement, which appears to be untrue. The re-write by Kramer_Edins seems to capture the intent of your original post, whereas its actual wording does not.
  • Post #83 - November 1st, 2011, 12:50 pm
    Post #83 - November 1st, 2011, 12:50 pm Post #83 - November 1st, 2011, 12:50 pm
    EvanstonFoodGuy wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:
    EvanstonFoodGuy wrote:From what I've read it looks like that owner will be out of the restaurant business, helped along by expensive inconsistent food.

    Really? I've heard or read no such thing. Can you point to a specific link or are you just connecting the dots between comments made here and what you believe will be the eventual outcome for Pensiero?

    Whether you like the place/owner or not, I think it's somewhat irresponsible to imply that the place is going out of business without at least citing a source.

    =R=



    Wow chill out Its a statement of large number of turnovers in the kitchen which can lead to an inconstancy in the food, and people staying away, which then leads to a failed business. Not a smart way to run a business especially a restaurant in this economic climate. Why is it irresponsible I'm a lay person posting on a forum with an opinion I'm no food writer or paid critic.

    So it's just your opinion, right? You didn't actually read anywhere that Pensiero was going out of business, right? That's all I was trying to clarify.

    In the future, I think you should be more careful with your wording, so as to avoid any confusion.

    And fwiw, I'm perfectly calm.

    Now please, let's move on.

    =R=
    for the moderators
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #84 - November 19th, 2011, 10:25 am
    Post #84 - November 19th, 2011, 10:25 am Post #84 - November 19th, 2011, 10:25 am
    I just received notice from gDine that Pensiero is offering three course dinner for $35 (normally $42). The one dish that seems to remain from Jazzfood's brief (but glorious) tenure is on offer: Tagliatelle Al Tartufo: Hand-cut Tagliatelle, Mushrooms, Pistachios, Truffles, Parmiggiano, Porcini Broth, tossed in a wheel of Grana Padano. No guarantees (by me) that the preparation is the same, but it was a splendid dish when Alan's staff prepared it, back in the day. And to be fair, some of the other dishes read well on the menu.
    Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
  • Post #85 - November 23rd, 2011, 2:12 pm
    Post #85 - November 23rd, 2011, 2:12 pm Post #85 - November 23rd, 2011, 2:12 pm
    What's the over/under for the duration of the new chef at Pensiero?
  • Post #86 - November 23rd, 2011, 2:20 pm
    Post #86 - November 23rd, 2011, 2:20 pm Post #86 - November 23rd, 2011, 2:20 pm
    nr706 wrote:What's the over/under for the duration of the new chef at Pensiero?

    Well, they've been averaging three months apiece...
  • Post #87 - December 3rd, 2011, 10:20 pm
    Post #87 - December 3rd, 2011, 10:20 pm Post #87 - December 3rd, 2011, 10:20 pm
    After reading this interview in Grub Street and still being bummed that I never got a chance to try Chef Baltzley's food when he was at Pensiero, I dined at the restaurant this evening. I definitely see potential in Chef Wilson Bauer but I think he's still perfecting his dishes. Chef Bauer was kind enough to bring us a couple of dishes to try in between our appetizer and entrees. Service was excellent. I really liked our waiter.

    We started with housemade focaccia and grated parmesan in olive oil - a simple and delicious start to our meal. Parmesan soaked in olive oil = heaven.

    Image
    Housemade Focaccia / Pensiero by TrackBelle, on Flickr

    Image
    Olive Oil and Parmesan / Pensiero by TrackBelle, on Flickr

    I started with a Polpo (octopus) salad with garbanzo beans, curly endive, radish, citrus and brown butter vinaigrette. The octopus was amazing and I thought this was a really well constructed dish, although I think it may have been on the menu before Chef Bauer arrived.

    Image
    Duck Confit Kumquat Mustard Greens Crostini / Pensiero by TrackBelle, on Flickr

    Chef Bauer then brought out a new dish he is working on for us to try. Duck confit with mustard greens, pickled kumquats and fish roe on a thick rustic bread. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it at first since the bread is too thick and fluffy to be a crostini. Yet the bread crust and mustard greens were really hard to cut with a fork and knife. I would have eaten it with my fingers, but it was piled so high with deliciousness that I feared looking like a slob. I loved the flavor profile, especially the sharp kumquats, but maybe the dish could be a little more user friendly.

    Image
    Gnocchi con Coda / Pensiero by TrackBelle, on Flickr

    Our next course was Gnocchi con Coda - gnocchi, oxtail, smoked onions, celery root. This is a classic dish impeccably prepared. I think I enjoyed these gnocchi even more than that gnocchi with wild boar ragu at Cafe Spiaggia.

    Image
    Arctic Char / Pensiero by TrackBelle, on Flickr

    My entree was the Arctic Char with mustard greens, salsify, mascarpone, pomegranate. After two surprise courses before our entrees, I was really glad I opted for fish instead of the Alan Lake's famous tagliatelle. Loved all the flavors except for the mascarpone. I normally adore mascarpone, especially in cheesecake, but it just did not work here. It reminded me of a Philadelphia roll and not in a good way. The fish was yummy and the pomegranate was perfect with it - however there were several bites of the skin that were far too salty.

    Image
    Eggnog French Toast Strata / Pensiero by TrackBelle, on Flickr

    At this point I was stuffed, but I really wanted to try a new dessert by Chef Bauer, who is currently without a pastry chef. We split the eggnog French toast strata with blueberry and orange pate filling topped with kumquats, with pistachio cream and an eggnog mousse inside a dehydrated blueberry cylinder topped with pistachio brittle. The eggnog mousse was awesome, and the dehydrated cylinder was like a Fruit Roll-Up but better. I saw it described as "blueberry glass" on Pensiero's Facebook page. However, the "glass" was hard to break, and even harder to get the right proportion of mousse to fruit roll-up in each bite. Pistachio was a perfect complement though and I wish I could have taken some of that brittle home. The strata was more fruity than eggnog-y, and I don't think that as a whole this dish is really there yet.
  • Post #88 - February 15th, 2015, 3:25 pm
    Post #88 - February 15th, 2015, 3:25 pm Post #88 - February 15th, 2015, 3:25 pm
    Va Pensiero (AKA Pensiero Ristorante) is permanently closed. A contact at the adjoining Margarita Inn confirmed that the planned remodel to upgrade the space to ADA standards is not going to take place, and the restaurant kitchen will only be used for catering, and for continental breakfast use by the B&B's guests.

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