A modern Italian restaurant

August 7, 2009 (CHICAGO) Rarely do spectacular views match up with equally inspiring cuisine. But at Terzo Piano, the lone restaurant inside the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, the outdoor sculpture garden, view of Millennium Park and the stark-white interior, all serve as a wondrous landscape for the creative Italian food from the team behind Cafe Spiaggia.

"I think the food here is a little like Cafe Spiaggia, but it brings in a lot more Mediterranean things. But still, it is an Italian restaurant. It's a lot more local ingredients," said Chef Tony Mantuano of Terzo Piano.

But the local plays well with the imported. Smoked whitefish, cured meats, even pizza is elevated here: thanks to the addition of creamy hunks of burrata cheese. Another cheese-filled delight: homemade ravioli topped with local fingerling potatoes and green beans, along with some dollops of freshly-made pesto.

The menu is pretty compact, due to the fact the restaurant is only open for lunch - with the exception of Thursday nights.

"We are open for seven lunches. And it allows me to spend my evenings at Spiaggia, so I am spending a lot of time walking up and down Michigan avenue these days. And then the one dinner that we are open Thursday night. It's a fixed price dinner and it's 3 courses for $45, Mantuano says.

One of those courses might be meaty and tender halibut cheeks - bumped up in flavor by a simple basting in brown butter - they're plated over seasonal broccoli for a textural contrast. Mantuano says just being able to walk out the front door everyday and see the view, is inspiring enough.

"It is amazing. And whether you have lived in Chicago for 30 years or 30 days. When you walk like on the pedestrian bridge, and you walk out, or you stand here in our sculpture garden. It's pretty inspring. Pretty breathtaking," says Mantuano.

Talk about a room with a view. Terzo Piano not only sits three stories above Monroe, with a fantastic view of the Lake, but then you have this view along the Nichols Bridgeway of the history of Chicago, Michigan Avenue. And then just to the North you have a view of the Pritzker Pavilion. It's one of those rare instances in Chicago when the food actually matches the view.

Reservations are a must. If you are going to dine there, I suggest you start in Millenium Park and walk across the Nichols Bridgeway, which takes you directly into the restaurant.

Terzo Piano
159 E. Monroe St

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