When veterans of the Gold Coast's Spiaggia decided to buy a building there and bring back one of their colleagues, it completely changed the landscape. Reunions can be fun. They can also re-energize a career. That's certainly the case for Dan Pancake.
After years working for Spiaggia and then moving to Ohio, he and his wife have returned to the Chicago area. This time, they're in Berwyn at the uber-charming Autre Monde and have partnered with their old chums from their Spiaggia days.
"My husband has a business next door, we live in the area and we never got why there wasn't more in the way of dining options here," Christine Tully Aranza said. "We came across this building and started doing that a couple years ago and got the band back together and the rest is kind of history."
They built a greenhouse out back, next to the patio, so Pancake could grow his own herbs and lettuces. Then they left him alone, allowing him to delve deep into his memories of Spain and Italy: octopus grilled over hardwood, chopped and plated with charred tomatoes, sherry vinegar and capers; handmade pappardelle pasta, tossed with rock shrimp and tender scallops, plated over a shallow pool of sweet pea sauce. Even something as rustic as cured sardines with fresh herbs gets top billing.
"It was important to use because of simplicity here," Aranza said. "So it was really just how could you show people things that maybe they?we see people with sardines all the time, they say 'eh, sardines,' and then you bring it out and they're like, 'oh my god, I've never had sardines like this.' "
There's also a beautiful charcuterie platter of cured, thinly-sliced pork with almonds and grilled bread while a limited number of flatbreads let Pancake recall his Cafe Spiaggia days. Consider the bright green rapini with pancetta and creamy-rich taleggio cheese.
His porchetta sandwich is another nod to Italy. This time it's shredded and topped with a bright, anise-scented fennel slaw, served on homemade focaccia and paired with impossibly-thin potato chips. Aranza said her team maintains the same philosophy they had in the Gold Coast, just at a new, albeit less glamorous, address.
"Not just be a part of the community but try and really bring some of the sensibilities that we're seeing and appreciating - farm to table - and how can you bring it even closer to home," she said.
You could stay for dessert, but since you're only a few doors down from the legendary Gina's Italian Ice, I would highly recommend you save room for their watermelon or lemon flavors.
6727 W. Roosevelt Rd. Berwyn