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Impromptu Date Night at Nico Osteria Chicago (review)

Last day to use the Jessica’s Discount Code SUZLYFE

I was going to run down all the things that I ate this weekend, then realized that although I adored them all, and dang if we didn’t do the south proud, but only one dinner was really exceptional. Otherwise? They were special to me, if not necessarily special. I might mention them tomorrow. So instead I’m going to tell you about the dinner that Alex and I had Monday night at Nico Osteria, one of our fave special occasion places. 

Nico Osteria opened to great fanfare late 2013, and has remained one of the most well-regarded restaurants in the city. Alex and I went there for Valentine’s Day last year and sat at the chef’s bar–definitely not a post to miss if you are a foodie–and I went with our friend last summer when he visited for a conference (and his program was buying, lol). Well, for Christmas this past year, Alex’s brother and wife gave us a gift certificate, and we decided on a whim on Monday to take advantage! It ended up being a little cool and windier than we would have liked, but we had a great time, and a fabulous dinner, as expected!

nico osteria chicago review suzlyfe bread foccacia

One of the things that I love about Nico is that they curate their menu to include both favorites/standards, such as the whole salt-crusted branzino (which we will get, one day) and their incredible foccacia, but, like Cicchetti (RIP), they also make sure to stay seasonal and fresh. This isn’t about pomp and circumstance, but rather about innovation meets tradition, technique meets leaving the ingredients alone. And expertise and quality throughout. And you KNOW that I like that!

Alright: Lips sealed, food, go:

Nico Osteria Review Spring 2015

nico osteria chicago review suzlyfe mediterranean stormy

Mediterranean Stormy Cruzan Black Strap Rum and Amaro Angostura set afloat over Reed’s Ginger Beer, fresh lime, and a few dashes of ras-al-hanout essence. Served tall with candied ginger.

Fabulous. Refreshing with the ginger, but still stormy and a bit dark. Didn’t get tons of ras-al-hanout, but still so good and well balanced.

nico osteria chicago review suzlyfe bread

Bread Selection house foccacia, whole wheat, cheese and olive foccacia, olive oil

This is the best table bread in Chicago. Cicchetti was tied with it, but you a) had to order that and b) C is closed, so Nico wins. The foccacia literally tastes of olive oil, the whole wheat is otherworldly in texture–so spring, but oaty and seedy, and structured, but I love the cheese and olive foccacia–asiago on the crust, green olives within. All 3 are perfection and meant for the olive oil.

nico osteria chicago review suzlyfe burrata

nico osteria chicago review suzlyfe burrata

Truffled Burrata with beets, carrots, parsnips, warm sherry vinaigrette (poured tableside)

I used to serve burrata everyday, so I knew Alex would love this (plus the truffle factor). For those who don’t know, burrata is a mozzarella ball stuffed with shredded mozzarella. I had a little bit of it, and I can say that it was beautiful–silky smooth, but with some structure. Gorgeous and lightly truffled (but not for me). The rest of the salad, though, was GORGEOUS. Carrot fries (but roasted), perfect beets, crispy parsnips, vinaigrette poured over tableside. Vegetarians, eat your heart out. 

nico osteria chicago review suzlyfe gem lettuce salad

Little Gem Lettuce with kohlrabi, currants, crispy anchovy, creamy pecorino vinaigrette (on side)

The crispy anchovy was, to be honest, one of the most startling and surprising bites of the night. Perfectly fried, like a tempura green been, slightly salty interior, baked sweet potato like interior. Absolutely astonishing. The salad was delicious, and with the wind, I took to just picking up each lettuce and dipping into the dressing like a lettuce wrap! 

nico osteria chicago review suzlyfe striped bass crudo

Wild Striped Bass Crudo with pixie tangerine, dill, habanero

I was so excited about this because of the habanero. But, alas, it was good but didn’t blow my mind. I loved the tangerine, and there were little touches of sea salt that, when in the same bite as the citrus, made the dish sing. But there was no spice to speak of. The striped bass (similar to traditional branzino) was more substantial that my typical hamachi, and I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t blown away.

nico osteria chicago review suzlyfe pork pappardelle

Stuffed Pappardelle with milk braised pork, carrot, black truffle

Another dish I urged Alex to choose, knowing his tastes, and another reason that he trusts me to make recommendations! This was perhaps the perfect earthy pasta dish for him. Handmade pappardelle stuffed with pork and topped with roasted carrot and this incredible lightly spiced cream sauce scented with black truffle. The crispy touches on top and chiffonade of basil (very subtle) brought everything together. Simply, simply stunning. Balanced to perfection, earthy, decadent without be heavy, not a single element overtook the other. And the carrot was the perfect way to bring another dimension, just like the delicate crunch on top.

(unpictured) Decaf Italian Coffee with Fudge Crinkle Cookie

I am sad that I didn’t take a picture of this coffee and the cookie, but I didn’t think that the cookie would be one of my favorite bites of the night. Fudgy within, with deep dark chocolate flavor and a lighter outside with more lightly sweet powdered sugar. PERFECT with the robust coffee.

nico osteria chicago review suzlyfe cinnamon donut gelato

Cinnamon Donut Gelato with vanilla pizzelle

They weren’t kidding. Literally cinnamon donut flavor in gelato. Spiced and sweet but not cloying or overpowering. Fabulous. And I adore pizzelle, and this was perhaps the best one I’ve ever had. Robust, fresh, and true vanilla coming through. The perfect way to end the night except….

nico osteria chicago review suzlyfe truffle pate de fruit candy

Chocolate Truffle and Berry (and passion fruit) pate de fruit

The texture of the pate de fruit (fruit jelly candy) was perfect. Alex was saying that he wanted to use it instead of jelly! And just the right amount of flavor–just enough tart and sweet, and perfect for those who (GASP) don’t like the creamiest dark chocolate truffle. And then I feel sorry for you. Because they were amazing.

Best bites? Well, the most surprising were the Crispy Anchovy, Fudge Crinkle Cookie, and Cubifrutta. Best ensemble bites were found in the burrata dish and pasta, though I wouldn’t want the entire dish.

Most disappointing dish was the crudo. I wanted the heat!

But to pick from amongst these dishes was like picking the smartest MENSA candidate or me trying to pick a favorite color. My only actual gripe? Our waiter tended to disappear. And he like to ramble (he read us the menu when I asked for a few standouts). But the service staff was ON POINT. 

Thank you, Nico, for another fabulous meal! We will definitely be back. We will have that branzino.

Do you like white or black truffle? 

What looks good to you? 

When was your last impromptu date night or gourmet dinner?

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  • Reply Stacie @ SimplySouthernStacie

    I love your restaurant reviews! Y’all always choose such unique and different items to order.
    Stacie @ SimplySouthernStacie recently posted…Love WinsMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 6:20 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You know I don’t do anything “normal”

      April 17, 2015 at 5:14 pm
  • Reply Ruthie@She'sWickedHealthy

    We haven’t had an impromptu date night in a while but we did have an impromptu wine on the porch night because spring has finally sprung! It was reallllll nice. πŸ™‚
    Ruthie@She’sWickedHealthy recently posted…WIAW: How Passover Changed My Eating Habits for the Better!My Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 6:48 am
    • Reply suzlyfe


      April 17, 2015 at 5:13 pm
  • Reply Michele

    I hate the feeling of getting really exciting for a dish that’s anything less than amazing! Still looks good though, the whole meal!
    Michele recently posted…WIAW – Not a Bad Place to BeMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 7:00 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Yeah, it just didn’t sing. Ah well. Can’t win them all πŸ˜€

      April 17, 2015 at 5:13 pm
  • Reply carissajade

    That looks amazing! I love weeknight dates. It makes the week go by so much more quickly. Also, I’ve never had anything that you ate, but it all looks amazing. That bass! YUM! I need to come to Chicago just to eat for a few days.
    carissajade recently posted…Can We Talk About Mental Health?My Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 7:00 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Come on over–the water’s fine! lol. But you are so right–and it gives the middle of the week more than just a rote feeling.

      April 17, 2015 at 5:13 pm
  • Reply Annmarie

    Love impromptu date nights, they are so much fun!!! My husband and I usually make a point to go out at least every two weeks!
    Annmarie recently posted…Wild Workout Wednesday: #SpringFeverFitness GiveawayMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 7:04 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Alex and I need to be better about trying to go to new and different places–thank goodness that the weather is looking like it might cooperate with that!

      April 17, 2015 at 5:11 pm
  • Reply Jill

    A mozzarella ball stuffed with shredded mozzarella?!? I have never heard of this and I’m Italian! I’m going to find one and get it for my momma. She could live off muzarell as my grandfather calls it.
    Your dishes of food always look amazing by the way!!! I love a good bread with olive oil.
    I haven’t had a really amazing dinner out in a long time but perhaps that’s Bc I’m laying off the online dating?! Happy hump day Susie πŸ™‚
    Jill recently posted…Step by StepMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 7:08 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      hahaha I used to sell soooo much burrata when i worked at Orzo. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it! GASP
      Happy hump day and online dating in the same line…. subliminal messages??

      April 17, 2015 at 5:08 pm
  • Reply Katie @ Daily Cup of Kate

    YUM! I am drooling over that foccacia- I haven’t had that in ages! Our last impromptu date night was actually last night! The weather was perfect and we wanted to eat outside on a patio. πŸ™‚

    April 15, 2015 at 7:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Foccacia is one of the most perfect food creations ever. And while we were sitting out, the wind picked up and it got all cold, but HELL if we were going inside!

      April 17, 2015 at 5:06 pm
  • Reply Erin @ Erin's Inside Job

    Well that all looks super fancy. Neil and I have yet to actually go to a real sit down restaurant here haha.
    Erin @ Erin’s Inside Job recently posted…Champion ReviewMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 7:39 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, Naf Naf involves sitting down.

      April 17, 2015 at 5:05 pm
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner

    Cinnamon donut gelato? yummy yum. You always seem to go to the best looking restaurants.
    Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Women’s Health Action Hero 2015My Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 7:40 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We are pretty careful, but it is hard to have a really bad experience in Chicago if you are a foodie and know where to look!

      April 17, 2015 at 5:05 pm
  • Reply Gretchen | Gretchruns

    Wow..these all look amazing to me right now, and your descriptions of them is making me really hungry. That drink sounds really good too! I love ginger in drinks, and I’ve never tried a dark and stormy. I might have to pick one up next time I’m out for dinner πŸ™‚
    Gretchen | Gretchruns recently posted…Wednesday Reviews : Pop Sugar Must Have Box {April}My Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 7:40 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Or maybe lunch πŸ˜‰

      April 17, 2015 at 5:05 pm
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    I am drooling!!!!! It all looks amazing. I love your big city reviews!
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt recently posted…6 Ways to Drink More WaterMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 8:02 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      haha and I love your local excursions–perfect balance πŸ˜€

      April 17, 2015 at 5:04 pm
  • Reply Pragati // Simple Medicine

    Yellow looks good on me. Yellow and an ice cream cone πŸ™‚ It sounds like you had a lovely meal! Your food descriptions make me feel like I’m eating along side you, in a non-creeper kind of way.
    Pragati // Simple Medicine recently posted…How to: Improve your Digestive HealthMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 8:05 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hahaha well that is what I am going for!

      April 17, 2015 at 5:02 pm
  • Reply Kate @ Baking in Yoga Pants

    Ready for another meal after reading this! We went out for dinner on Saturday evening and after a long Winter of take out at home, it was a really nice treat to dine out πŸ™‚
    Kate @ Baking in Yoga Pants recently posted…Treat Yourself TuesdayMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 8:27 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Isn’t is so lovely, that post-winter feeling? Now if it will stay that way, please and thank you!

      April 17, 2015 at 5:01 pm
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    The whole meal looks so delicious and fancy! The bread basket does look so good. My favorite bread basket in Chicago is at Berghoff’s – that bread basket and their beer is like a match made in my German heritage heaven. I love impromptu date nights – so fun!
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…2015 Go! St. Louis Half Marathon RecapMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 8:31 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I pass Berghoff’s all the time. Now I must make a point to stop in!

      April 17, 2015 at 5:00 pm
  • Reply Jen @ Pretty Little Grub

    I love impromptu date nights,they always end up being fun. All the food looks delicious. I need to visit you in Chicago and eat my way through all these delicious restaurants.
    Jen @ Pretty Little Grub recently posted…Packing for a Ragnar RelayMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 8:33 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Pllllease come and visit soon??!

      April 17, 2015 at 5:00 pm
  • Reply Sarah

    Oh this makes me think we need a date night soon. Sorry Rock! This place looks absolutely incredible and just the kind of spot you would want to go for a perfect little date. And truffle anything is my fave. Him, not so much so.
    Sarah recently posted…Pick A Plan And Stick With ItMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 8:43 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      hahaha well that just means all the more for you, right?

      April 17, 2015 at 4:59 pm
  • Reply Ursula

    I might need to stop reading your food posts. They make me so hungry and then sad I live in a town where I can’t find food like that. Okay new plan, I’ll read them and just live vicariously through you mmmk?? Burrata is so good, and beets. I died.
    Ursula recently posted…Renewing colour in my closet and in my homeMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 9:13 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      mkay indeed. Beets are my everything currently

      April 17, 2015 at 4:57 pm
  • Reply Sara @ Lake Shore Runner

    Happy Alex and you were able to have a date night πŸ™‚ Now it is our turn ha. Candied ginger and truffled burrata – please say no more.
    Sara @ Lake Shore Runner recently posted…Eggplant Spaghetti Squash Parmesan RecipeMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 9:28 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You would have passed out over the burrata. you would have loved it. UM TRUFFLE OIL = your love

      April 17, 2015 at 4:56 pm
  • Reply Jill @ Champagne for Everyday

    This is awesome!! We were in Chicago this weekend and I stayed in the Thompson Hotel. We had our breakfast at Nico – the most amazing steel cut oats with Faro, topped with Ricotta. Yum!!

    xx Jill
    Latest Post – The Surprise Benefit of Your Gym Outfit: How Compression Gear Keeps Your Body Tight

    April 15, 2015 at 10:32 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      mmmmmmmm that sounds amazing. I’ve heard great things about their brunch–needs to happen!

      April 17, 2015 at 4:55 pm
  • Reply Earl-Leigh

    This post looks good to me…the cocktail especially because duh! Our last impromptu date night was a few weeks ago. We got pizza and beer LOLOL.
    Earl-Leigh recently posted…TIU Bikini Series and PhillyMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 11:09 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And was it MAGICAL???

      April 17, 2015 at 4:47 pm
  • Reply Sam @ PancakeWarriors

    Oh you guys have such awesome dinners!! What a great Christmas gift turned Birthday Gift!! I absolutely love dark chocolate truffle and would be drooling over that dessert! I’m super intrigued over that Wild Striped Bass Crudo dish thought – looks AMAZING!!
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors recently posted…Vegan Chocolate Chip CookiesMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 12:41 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      OMG girl you have to get you booty over here. If they could get the spice right on the crudo…. damn

      April 17, 2015 at 4:45 pm
  • Reply Debbie @ Coach Debbie Runs

    Every night is an impromptu date night! Well, not really, but we don’t go out too often because, you know, vegan. So we make the best of it at home. I love to cook and my husband loves my food, so, perfect combination! I doubt any of it was vegan, but those desserts sound amazing.
    Debbie @ Coach Debbie Runs recently posted…My Top 5 Running MomentsMy Profile

    April 15, 2015 at 10:56 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Ah, but I love the impromptu home dates, too. Going out is nice, but many of my favorite nights are the ones we never expected, when I murder Alex at Jenga πŸ˜€
      Like not vegan, but I’m sure they could have done something incredible for you nonetheless!

      April 17, 2015 at 4:44 pm
  • Reply Sarah Rosenblatt

    Guh I LIVE for burrata… that looks amazing! We haven’t had a date night in far too long… you may have inspired my evening plans…

    April 16, 2015 at 4:06 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Um, report back please and thank you.

      April 17, 2015 at 4:42 pm
      • Reply Sarah Rosenblatt

        omg, dude, it was such a hit! Granted this is one of our go-to spots, so we knew it would be good, but we tried a new pizza on their menu. I think I’ve told you about this place before; their pizzas are huge but super thin and perfectly crispy. This new variant was topped with sunflower seed pesto (not distinctive in flavor, but was a nice earthy/moist base), mushrooms, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and…. drumroll…. ORANGE ZEST. If you had ever told me that orange zest could be good on pizza I’d have told you you were crazy, but holy wow, it was amazing! It was this amazing bright punch of flavor that somehow brought everything together in a totally unexpected way.

        April 19, 2015 at 5:39 pm
        • Reply suzlyfe

          what. Now I have to try orange zest on a pizza. Citrus is like that–it can really boggle your mind and make flavors soar.

          April 21, 2015 at 12:44 pm
  • Reply Lauren @ ihadabiglunch

    I walk past here every single day and have yet to try it! I haven’t had a good bread basket in what seems like forever. This needs to change SOON!
    Lauren @ ihadabiglunch recently posted…Finding Healthy: It’s a long journey. You can’t be afraid to fall on your faceMy Profile

    April 16, 2015 at 10:34 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      OMG YOU NEED THEIR BREAD. Velvet is great. But Nico is different πŸ˜€

      April 17, 2015 at 4:42 pm
  • Reply Jess @hellotofit

    Can we please go on a double date? I need that Mediterranean Stormy after my long week :P. And burrata?? Gah. Not fancy by any means, but I whipped out the frozen Lou Malnati’s pizza that I ordered for Ray’s birthday last month.
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…Recipe of the week: easiest green smoothieMy Profile

    April 17, 2015 at 9:32 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Getchoself over here! PS, If they still have the burrata on the menu at Orzo…..

      April 17, 2015 at 4:42 pm

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