The beloved and classic downtown Chicago icon Petterino’s reopened on October 5, 2021 under new ownership, now complete with a refreshed interior, expanded outdoor dining area and reimagined food menu and beverage program. Petterino’s is located at 150 N. Dearborn Street, just steps away from Michigan Avenue in the heart of Chicago’s Loop and Theatre District.
Petterino’s specializes in classic Italian dishes like a robust ravioli, twirly spaghetti and a rich and filling gnocchi, and now also serves new dishes like petit filet, chuck and brisket blend cheeseburger, Lake Superior whitefish and more. The dinner menu features dishes with simple and timeless ingredients, making it the perfect destination before or after the theatre. (The famous and award winning acclaimed Goodman Theater is right next door). The Goodman Theater, another staple in the Chicago Theater District, reopened in late July this year.
“Petterino’s has been a mainstay in the Loop and for Goodman audiences for 20 plus years. We are thrilled to see the reopening this September and thank them for their continued partnership,” said Roche Schulfer, executive director of the Goodman Theater.
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity to re-envision a classic Chicago institution,” said Jay Speiss, director of restaurant operations at The Good Plate Hospitality Group. “We’re so excited to welcome back regulars and locals and show them an amazing experience, reminding them of everything they loved about the original Petterino’s.”
Petterino’s has brought on Executive Chef and long time Loop resident Ozzy Amelotti (The Grill on the Alley, Carnivale, Vivere) to try to amp up the classic menu. A longtime Little Italy chef, Amelotti will add his own spin to classic Petterino’s dishes like Prime Meatballs, Chicken Piccata and Bone Marrow Risotto Milanese. As well as classic Italian dishes, Petterino’s now offers diners approachable items like black Angus cheeseburgers, housemade pastas and pizzettas to reach new audiences outside of theatre-goers.
“I want to be sure my recipes maintain and build upon the legacy of Chicago’s rich Italian American cuisine and traditions,” said Amelotti. “We can’t forget that when people come to Chicago, they come to visit the best Italian restaurants in the country.”
Along with changes to the menu, Petterino’s debuted a refreshed interior space, along with an expanded outdoor dining area, when the weather gets warmer next year. As for the restaurant’s interior, the design maintains the existing character of the space, while providing a dining experience that is both approachable and inviting. When you enter the restaurant, you see an expanded bar highlighted by a floor-to-ceiling feature wall, which incorporates wood and brass accents with an antique mirror backdrop, extensive lighting, audio, visual and technology upgrades, as well as a piano.
My dad and I have been longtime diners at Petterino’s, and were disappointed when it closed during the height of the pandemic. The restaurant and bar also was a place for my father (a lawyer) and his friends to sit back and relax, while socializing with glasses of scotch and munching on bowls of peanuts. My dad loved that the restaurant interior was very true to the original, but did notice that the drawings of local attorneys, who frequented the bar area before the Covid 19 shutdown, had been removed from above the bar area.
When I learned the restaurant had reopened under new ownership, I had to experience it for myself and bring my dad along. We stopped by for dinner and were happy and instantly impressed with the interior. Though updated with beautiful large, new windows, hanging crystal ball chandeliers, the space looked almost the same, which was comforting to these longtime Petterino’s diners. The endless picture frames of celebrity and actor caricatures, complete with their signatures, were also still on the walls, which gives the timeless restaurant its overall character.
When we were seated at our table, there were paper bags to store our masks in while we dined, which I thought was a thoughtful touch. We had an amazing server that evening, Jason, who was attentive, welcoming and very knowledgeable of the new menu.
My dad and I were curious to see how Petterino’s had changed, as well as what was the same or similar. For our appetizer, we had an old favorite (which we were happy was still on the menu), stuffed baby bella mushrooms. They were just as delicious as before, with wild spinach, parmigiano reggiano, chili flakes, toasted bread crumbs and bechamel sauce. However, it was a bit disappointing that there were much fewer of them on the plate, given the higher prices of the new menu. We also noticed that we had to inquire about bread for our table, which was always brought to the table pre-pandemic without our having to ask. The menu also changed, as we noticed that some long-standing sandwiches and salads were gone.
All of our ordered Italian dishes were tasty and nicely spiced. We sampled perfectly tender gnocchi with parmesan, fresh marinara and fried basil. The gnocchi melted in my mouth with each bite. My dad ordered a special that was not on the menu, which he found very impressive: penne pasta with sausage, vodka spaghetti sauce, basil, imported buffa mozzarella, pomodoro tomatoes and bechamel sauce. He enjoyed the generous portion size and the nicely cooked sausage, which was juicy and tangy, with a taste that lingered on the tongue. I also sampled another new, tasty menu addition, the Trenton, New Jersey Style Pizza (imported mozzarella de buffala from Campania, cherry tomato, Pomodoro, chili flake), which was delicious and extra cheesy with a perfect oven fired, crispy crust.
We washed down every delightful, culinary bite with a few rounds of scotch on the rocks (Glenlivet 12 year). Drinks came quickly and were a generous pour. My dad finished his meal with a lovely Umbria Italian dark roast espresso. When the meal was over, the head Chef Amelotti stopped by our table to see how our dining experience was, which I always highly appreciate when eating out at a restaurant. We also regretted not having any of the new desserts offered, but we were stuffed to the brim. Definitely on the next visit-we will be back!
Photos: Jennifer Lunz