Logan Square restaurant takes Midwest approach to pasta

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Dozens of Chicago restaurants focus on pasta, but most of them take a narrow, Italian approach.

However, Daisies -- a cozy new spot in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood -- not only makes all of the pasta in the basement, it takes a more Midwestern approach to cooking.

When Joe Frillman created Daisies - a neighborhood-friendly, pasta-focused restaurant - he didn't want to fall victim to the same old cliches.

"Where you see your spaghetti and meatballs, your bologneses - those things exist in Italy but you see a ton of them here. What we wanted to do was basically have the Italian inspiration and say if the Midwest was a region in Italy, what would the food kind of look like around here," said Frillman.

That would mean looking to Wisconsin for not only cheese, but inspiration.

"We're looking to take the history of the region," he said. "Fried mushrooms and cheese curds and impart that on our menu as well."

So curds and 'shrooms are tempura-fried, served with a cool tarragon-buttermilk dipping sauce.

Pastas are inventive. Not just a vibrant green tagliatelle, fortified with a pesto made from fava bean leaves, but one of the best agnolottis around: these tiny pasta "envelopes" house cooked beets with fromage blanc. Cooked for just a minute or two, they're sauteed in some of that reserved beet juice and whey - the liquid byproduct of cheese-making. A knob of butter sure doesn't hurt; neither does the rich creme fraiche or earthy trout roe crowned on top.

Pierogis are also made from scratch - that's pureed Yukon gold potatoes with onions inside.

But these are sauteed in a bit of clam juice, as well as shucked clams, plus onions and butter. Fresh herbs and crunchy, lemony breadcrumbs give the dish an added dimension. It's familiar Midwestern fare, but with a nod to Europe.

"And blend it a little bit with the Italian philosophy of cooking what's in season, what around you and using farms as much as possible," said Frillman.

Joe's brother owns a farm 30 miles north of here in Buffalo Grove that supplies a lot of the produce for the restaurant, so the menu changes quite a bit. And even though it's a pasta restaurant, don't think of it as a typical Italian pasta dishes you'd find on Taylor Street or North Harlem or even River North, think of it as a pasta restaurant with a very strong Midwestern seasonal approach.

EXTRA COURSE: A closer look at one of Daisies' starters, which is made from carrots, duckfat and horseradish creme fraiche.
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EXTRA COURSE: ABC7 food reporter Steve Dolinsky took a look at one of Daisies' starters.

2523 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
(773) 661-1671
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