Nestled into the stunning Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in the chic Lakeshore East neighborhood, Filini offers globally inspired Italian cuisine in an elegant, slightly eclectic, and totally welcoming environment. Now I know many people tend to avoid hotel restaurants because while the cocktail list may be fantastic, the food is mostly an afterthought. This is not the case at all at Filini; Chef Carolina Diaz has created an impressive seasonally-inspired menu (with locally sourced ingredients) that makes this restaurant worthy of a spot on everyone's must-visit restaurant list. Her dishes are designed with the idea in mind that the best ingredients should be served in the simplest of forms (a core in core in Italian cooking) - she strives to stay as true as possible to traditional Italian techniques, but with a contemporary, local twist.
We kicked off our evening of Savory Summer tastings with a surprisingly delicious cocktail: the Beet 17, made with Vida Mezcal, lemon juice, agave nectar, and beet syrup. Beets have always been one of those vegetables I could take or leave, but this smokey, sweet, and refreshing mixture hit all the right spots!
As we sipped our cocktails, Gigi and I took a moment to explore the beautiful lobby/lounge area. We both loved the mixture of dramatic lighting installations, earthy elements, candlelit corners, and mixed metals.
The eclectic, sleek decor from the lobby extends into the dining room with a backlit wine wall, drum lights, and metals mixed with wood. The lovely environment strikes the perfect balance between modern elegance and comfort (my favorite type of space!).
This giant cheese wheel sits in the middle of the dining room; being bona fide cheese lovers, Gigi and I were mesmerized every time a server stopped by to dig out some fresh Parmesan. We may have even contemplated how difficult it would be to smuggle out the wheel with us. ;-)
We started our tour through the summer menu with an order of Bruschetta: heirloom tomatoes, oregano, basil, and balsamic. This traditionally prepared bruschetta was quite tasty - while I tend to enjoy all versions of the dish, there's something to be said about the beauty of a simple preparation in which the flavorful heirloom tomatoes really take a starring role.
Our second course was one that was unanimously loved by everyone at my end of the table: Asparagus with egg yolk, capers, smoked sea salt, and lemon cream. I really cannot emphasize enough exactly how amazing this dish was - the asparagus was perfectly cooked and the combination of the egg yolk and lemon cream added a fantastic creamy, zesty zing. This is a must-order for anyone who visits Filini!
We then moved on to the first of the pasta courses: Ravioli with three cheese filling, arrabiata, and pesto oil drizzle. This housemade pasta was soft and pillowy with just the right amount of filling.
We followed the ravioli with my favorite pasta of the evening: Squid Ink Angelotti with lobster and friggitello pepper sauce. I particularity enjoyed the slight heat from the sweet chili pepper cream... and really, what's there not to love about lobster-stuffed pasta?!
Our fifth and sixth course tastings were focused on meats.This Brazino with salsa verde will have a starring role in my foodie dreams for months to come - the fish was perfectly tender and flakey, and the salsa added a delicious tanginess. This dish is another definite must-order!
Veal Involtini with prosciutto, sage, puttanesca, and red pepper. Our final meat dish of the evening really showcased Chef Diaz's ability to pair traditional Italian flavors with modern touches. The slightly spicy, tangy puttanesca paired perfectly with the mild, tender meat.
We ended our evening with an assortment of desserts, starting with their epic gelato sundaes. My favorite of the entire dessert course was the Filini Gold: salted caramel and vanilla gelato, caramel sauce, and crushed almonds, topped with caramel corn. *Swoon*
After Dark: black cherry and vanilla gelato, diced brownies, rum-infused cherries, and chocolate sauce
Rad Blu For You: white marsala gelato with raspberry coulis and sliced almonds, topped with fresh whipped cream
Seriously, how insane are their sundaes?!
Strawberry Panna Cotta and Cannoli
You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Filini Bar and Restaurant: 221 N. Columbus Dr., Chicago, IL.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.