Guildhall: Glencoe's culinary game changer

May 10, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The homemade ricotta cavatelli, bathed in a vibrant spinach sauce, says so much about Guildhall - the hottest pretty young thing on the North Shore. Not only is the pasta made from scratch, but instead of the usual heavy cream and bacon, it contains toasted hickory nuts, grated meyer lemon zest and fresh parmigiano-reggiano.

"It's a seasonal American kitchen. We serve fare that's heavily influenced by Spain - ingredients from Spain, Italy, France - a little bit into Germany as well. Very approachable, not too expensive," said Christian Ragano, the chef at Guildhall.

That hint of Germany comes in the form of crisp tarte flambees - essentially an Alsatian pizza.

"Gets topped with crème fraiche, bacon, onions that are sweated in bacon fat and that's pretty much it," he said.

But Ragano also offers a forestiere version, adding honshimeji, maitake and king trumpet mushrooms. After baking it in his wood-burning oven for just a few minutes, he pulls it out, then immediately tops it off with finely-chopped chives and some freshly-grated gruyere.

Sashimi-quality crudo, or raw fish, is always offered, providing a light appetizer.

"We change the fish out, sometimes we use salmon, hamachi; today we used hamachi," said Ragano.

In this case, it's topped with bits of apple, jalapeno and yuzu - a Japanese citrus - plus a sprinkling of Spanish esplette pepper.

More substantial fish, as in wild striped bass, is cooked perfectly, saddled next to a mound of roasted beets. Clearly, this kind of restaurant is unique to the area, and it's been embraced by locals from day one.

"We tried to bring a little bit of the city up into the North Shore, but at the same time we kept ourselves approachable enough that people can come here two to three times a week if they'd like as well," he said.

If you don't want to drive, the restaurant is only a five-minute walk from the train station.

694 Vernon Ave., Glencoe

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