Monteverde brings taste of Italy to West Loop with homemade pasta

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Only a small percentage of Italian restaurants go that extra mile and make all of their pastas in-house. (WLS)

There are dozens of Italian restaurants in Chicago, but only a small percentage go that extra mile and make all of their pastas in-house from scratch.

A new restaurant in the West Loop is committed to hand-making everything, including one pasta dish that has become a personal favorite.

When Sarah Grueneberg left Spiaggia, she took with her years of experience making pasta from scratch. Her frequent trips to Italy resulted in creating two pasta sections on the menu of her new restaurant: classic and modern. And there's one dish on that classic side that blew me away. Say "bongiorno" to tortelloni.

The volcano of 00 flour, filled with whole eggs and egg yolks, gently, methodically combined and turned into pasta dough, is something Grueneberg can do in her sleep. At her new restaurant, Monteverde, in the West Loop, fans have been coming all winter long for the homemade pasta.

"It's the story I wanted to tell of how you eat pasta in Italy and then also an American chef learning about pasta and how you could kind of break the rules," Grueneberg said.

But rolling it out by hand, then feeding it through a pasta sheeter until it's as thin as paper and long as a surfboard isn't enough. For her magical tortelloni, she roasts butternut squash, purees it, and adds it to a food processor with a few ingredients from Emiliia-Romagna, one of Italy's lushest regions.

"Grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano, fruit mostarda - which is candied fruits with mustard - and a little bit of salt and pepper and mustard powder," she said.

The mixture is then piped onto squares of pasta she cut out herself, then formed by hand into tortelloni. While it boils in water, she browns some butter, adding fresh sage leaves and some finely-diced apples for acidity. In goes the pasta, just to coat and heat through. Then onto a plate with some fonduta - an Italian fondue of reduced cream with egg yolks and grated cheese. She says going through the effort of making the dish results in a superior product.

"It's a difference of having a pasta that can be really thin and delicate and the texture is different. It's a classic dish that deserves to be on a pedestal," she said.

1020 W. Madison St.
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