Nellcote takes extra homemade step

May 12, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"Okay we're going to do Mediterranean food but what's going to set it apart," said Ray Stanis, one of the cooks at Nellcote. "Looking at Old Town as kind of a model like, what can we do in-house and do it really well?"

After a lot of trial-and-error, they settled on milling their own wheat, which comes to them from a farm in Ottawa, Illinois.

"We knew farmers that had wheat to grind and so we started doing that, we got samples and we played," Stanis said.

They played around with their noisy mill, eventually figuring out how to create double-zero flour, the preferred grade for making high-quality pizza and pasta.

Back in the kitchen, vibrant green stinging nettles are combined with flour and egg to make a dough that is freshly-cut throughout the day, in this case, the shape of tagliatelle. It is quickly boiled, then added to a sauté pan containing more nettles, plus morel mushrooms steeped in butter and fresh thyme. They'll also add squid ink to their homemade pasta, forming it into strozzapretti, then tossing it with pesto, pine nuts and mint and crowning it with hunks of Maine lobster

On the other side of the kitchen, the double-zero flour is kneaded into pizza dough, which is eventually turned into simple margherita pies, barely blistered in the wood-burning oven; sweet Italian sausage and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms offer another alternative. Stanis says there are many advantages to milling their own flour.. the most obvious is taste, which is even more noticeable when baking all of their own bread.

"You get that whole wheat benefit and suppleness of a really fine flour, but it's not coarse from the whole wheat," said Stanis.

So the housemade/homemade mantra has slowly evolved in Chicago over the past year. What started out as condiments like ketchup and mayo and pickles has now evolved to the point where they are milling their own flour, making bread, pizza and pasta, perfect for those carb lovers out there.

The restaurant is open for dinner only and despite the fact there are nine pizzas and seven pastas on the menu, there are plenty of other options as well.

833 W. Randolph St.

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