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  • Gaetano's - Forest Park [Italian]

    Post #1 - August 18th, 2009, 2:47 pm
    Post #1 - August 18th, 2009, 2:47 pm Post #1 - August 18th, 2009, 2:47 pm
    Like many who've come to love his cooking, I first discovered Chef Gaetano at La Piazza in Forest Park where he was turning out Italian cuisine of a type and quality not duplicated anywhere nearby. So I was greatly relieved when, after a falling-out among partners at La Piazza, Gaetano's opened just a bit down the road in Forest Park. That the new space is so nicely decorated - including one of kennyz's favorite bathrooms :wink: - turned out to be just icing on the cake once my first meal there proved to be every bit as good as anything I had eaten at La Piazza.

    When I realized that Gaetano's doesn't yet have GNR status, I was certain that there were no more worthy options I might think of to nominate this year. It still made a pretty good excuse to grab my wife and head over for dinner last night though, and to try the Gae-tapas, which we had not yet. Truly a wonderful meal that included many of the same dishes lauded in the past by Santander, Hammond, and Ronnie in the threads I will link shortly, but often times with slight (or not so slight) variations that manage to keep some of Gaetano's old favorites new and interesting. For $45 per person our dinner included 9 dishes (I believe, I may be forgetting something) and 4 desserts. It ran the gamut from the beets carpaccio to poached pear with watercress and a gorgonzola and mascarpone fondue to an excellent butternut squash gnocchi with beef short rib ragù. The canteloupe sorbet was exquisite - perfectly fresh, fruity, and light. My wife opted for the wine pairings for $28, and sampled seven different wines if I recall correctly, ranging from a prosecco to begin with to a nice moscato to accompany the desserts. The chef came to our table several times to introduce dishes and make sure everything was going well, and his sense of humor was in evidence from the start when verifying allergies, "Well, as long as we don't kill you, right?" Overall it was one of the best meals I've had in quite some time, and certainly the type of meal that makes a restaurant GNR worthy.

    It would be difficult - perhaps impossible - to go wrong ordering from the menu at Gaetano's. The best experience though comes from ordering either the Gae-tapas or Chef's Choice experiences, or truly going all out and grabbing a seat at the Chef's counter for the Ultimate Chef's Choice. Gaetano is a chef worthy of your trust - simply provide any dietary restrictions and allow him to take you on a culinary tour of exceptional value. You will not be disappointed.


    The current discussion thread for Gaetano's

    Previous discussion of Chef Gaetano's cuisine at La Piazza

    Gaetano's praise-worthy bathrooms

    Gaetano’s
    7636 Madison St
    Forest Park, IL
    708-366-4010
    http://www.gaetanos.us
    Open Monday through Thursday 5:00 - 9:30
    Friday and Saturday 4:30 to 10:30
    Closed on Sunday.
  • Post #2 - August 18th, 2009, 5:21 pm
    Post #2 - August 18th, 2009, 5:21 pm Post #2 - August 18th, 2009, 5:21 pm
    I whole-heartedly endorse this nomination. In fact, it's the second nominee during the current cycle that I was going to nominate myself, so I'm especially thrilled to see it being brought up for consideration.

    This is the quintessential chef-driven restaurant. It's all about chef Gaetano and his imaginative culinary artistry. The dinner I had there a few months back was one of the most impressive and memorable meals I've had in the year since the previous GNR nomination period. Additionally, comments on the main thread linked above are universally glowing. This is a destination restaurant that serves truly distinctive and delicious food. As ucjames alludes to above, this is a restaurant where as a diner, you want to simply put yourself in chef's hands and let him do his thing.

    My only (very minor) quibble with the nomination is that I'd hesitate to categorize Gaetano's as 'Italian.' In the post I was drafting, I referred to it as stylized Italian but even that fails to accurately define the food being put out by chef Gaetano. The last thing you want to do is pigeonhole this chef because you never know what he'll come up with. Presented with a diverse supply of outstanding ingredients, chef Gaetano could likely combine them into countless combinations, improvising the whole way through, like a jazz musician in all his glory.

    Again, a great nomination for a restaurant that I would happily and proudly recommend to anyone who 'gets it.'

    =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 #3 - August 18th, 2009, 6:02 pm
    Post #3 - August 18th, 2009, 6:02 pm Post #3 - August 18th, 2009, 6:02 pm
    Gaetano's wood-oven roasted tuna with caponata is one of the most memorable things I've eaten in all of Chicagoland. This restaurant is what dining out is all about. As fantastic as the food is, the personality of the place draws me back even more. The only problem I have with the nomination is that Great may not be a big enough superlative for Gaetano's.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #4 - August 18th, 2009, 9:57 pm
    Post #4 - August 18th, 2009, 9:57 pm Post #4 - August 18th, 2009, 9:57 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:My only (very minor) quibble with the nomination is that I'd hesitate to categorize Gaetano's as 'Italian.' In the post I was drafting, I referred to it as stylized Italian but even that fails to accurately define the food being put out by chef Gaetano. The last thing you want to do is pigeonhole this chef because you never know what he'll come up with. Presented with a diverse supply of outstanding ingredients, chef Gaetano could likely combine them into countless combinations, improvising the whole way through, like a jazz musician in all his glory.


    This is true, and I certainly considered not attaching a label of any sort. Perhaps I should have gone that route, or perhaps I should have used the Auteur Italian I considered after reading through the main Gaetano's thread. Ultimately, though, his cooking is Italian in origin and the menu categories and descriptions reflect this. It is not at all similar to most cooking that we are used to from your typical Italian-American "red-sauce" Italian joint and that's where the problem lies in labeling it Italian, really. Still, I felt like some basic description was a good thing for those not familiar with the restaurant, and I found myself equally unhappy with all other possibilities I considered for various reasons and thus opted to keep it simple.

    Gaetano's absolutely transcends what most people think of when they consider Italian food though, and that is a large part of what makes it GNR worthy. Hopefully we can all agree on that :D
  • Post #5 - August 18th, 2009, 10:51 pm
    Post #5 - August 18th, 2009, 10:51 pm Post #5 - August 18th, 2009, 10:51 pm
    ucjames wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:My only (very minor) quibble with the nomination is that I'd hesitate to categorize Gaetano's as 'Italian.' In the post I was drafting, I referred to it as stylized Italian but even that fails to accurately define the food being put out by chef Gaetano. The last thing you want to do is pigeonhole this chef because you never know what he'll come up with. Presented with a diverse supply of outstanding ingredients, chef Gaetano could likely combine them into countless combinations, improvising the whole way through, like a jazz musician in all his glory.


    This is true, and I certainly considered not attaching a label of any sort. Perhaps I should have gone that route, or perhaps I should have used the Auteur Italian I considered after reading through the main Gaetano's thread. Ultimately, though, his cooking is Italian in origin and the menu categories and descriptions reflect this. It is not at all similar to most cooking that we are used to from your typical Italian-American "red-sauce" Italian joint and that's where the problem lies in labeling it Italian, really. Still, I felt like some basic description was a good thing for those not familiar with the restaurant, and I found myself equally unhappy with all other possibilities I considered for various reasons and thus opted to keep it simple.

    Gaetano's absolutely transcends what most people think of when they consider Italian food though, and that is a large part of what makes it GNR worthy. Hopefully we can all agree on that :D

    No, I think you 'done good.' :)

    Just as Kenny expressed above that 'Great' might not be a big enough superlative for Gaetano's, it's also hard to even describe the place. But I'd agree that it's probably more Italian than anything else.

    =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 #6 - September 13th, 2009, 6:57 pm
    Post #6 - September 13th, 2009, 6:57 pm Post #6 - September 13th, 2009, 6:57 pm
    It's no secret that Gaetano is my chef; Obama would have done well to pull him to DC, with his instinctual understanding of international hospitality and his unbounded creativity. In full disclosure, my experiences are colored somewhat by his consistent overdelivery of service during a previous (travel) business relationship, but I walked into La Piazza for the first time unaware of how much the kitchen was "his," and with an open mind. I then RAN to Gaetano's. It's my go-to for birthdays and anniversaries. I'll put the Gae-tapas up against any tasting menu in the city for value, quantity, and flavor-popping contrast. Gaetano is a genius with boar and dairy and can do delicate and smack-your-mama bold with equal flair; I urge LTHers to get over to Forest Park early and often for this tiny jewel of a restaurant.
  • Post #7 - September 19th, 2011, 4:16 am
    Post #7 - September 19th, 2011, 4:16 am Post #7 - September 19th, 2011, 4:16 am
    This place is up for renewal of its GNR. Please post your comments here until 10/10/11.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #8 - October 9th, 2011, 12:31 am
    Post #8 - October 9th, 2011, 12:31 am Post #8 - October 9th, 2011, 12:31 am
    An indispensable and quite challenging little restaurant; playfulness cross from daring to garish on some dishes, but then they can throw down a perfect pizza margherita and dead simple piece of fish in olive oil and herbs that'll sing. The West would be a less interesting place without Gaetano.

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