Our mission objective was to gather intelligence and report on the Lincoln Square Italian BYOB Caro Mio.
The target environment:
Caro Mio Italian Ristorante
1827 W. Wilson Ave.
For starters we went with the classic Caprese salad. The Buffalo mozzarella was moist and delicious, the tomato's were just a bit under ripe. I'm sure they're good tomatoes, however after having Caprese salad in the Amalfi coast I'm a bit spoiled...nothing can compare to that! We also tried the Insalata di fagioli which was green beans marinated with balsamic vinegar, oregano, garlic, tomato's, and boconcini mozzarella. This salad was delicious and I much preferred it to the Caprese. The green beans were flavorful and prepared perfectly al dente.
Now on to the million dollar question, what to have for dinner. Caro Mio must offer 50 different choices between, home made pastas, chicken, risottos, beef, veal, seafood, etc. It took me quite awhile to decide on just a simple but delicious ziti with meatballs and sausage. What really made this dish was the homemade marinara sauce with onions, pancetta, white wine, garlic and parmesan. Wow, what a great combination, plus the portion size would easily leave two people stuffed. Everyone at the table really enjoyed their food.
In keeping with the Italian theme we decided to make it a special event and break out the big dogs from Tuscany. A "Super Tuscan" is a wine from Tuscany that does not fall into one of the Italian DOCG classifications. Read more about that here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denominazione_di_origine_controllata
Basically, Tuscan growers in the late 70s and early 80s did not want the government to tell them what grapes they can grow and what varietal percentages they can include in their final blends. They instead decided to declassify some wines and label them under the lower IGT classification. There's nothing lower quality about the wines we had last night however, in fact they are some of the most sought after and highly rated wines in the world.
1997 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT (Italy, Tuscany, Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT)
The Flaccianello is made from 100% Sangiovese and is the flagship wine of Fontodi. This is consistently rated as one of the top Italian wines year after year and last night it lived up to it's reputation. 1997 was an excellent vintage for Tuscany and just now this wine is entering it's peak drinking window, it will even last another 10 years I would think. Very full bodied it picked up weight in the glass as the night went on. Explosive nose of spice, cherry, and leather. Elegant and powerful but with finesse all at the same time. You can pick up the current vintage at Binny's for $100 but I'd wait at least 5 years to open one. In the meantime e-mail me and I'll tell you where to find back vintages at good prices.
2001 Antinori Tignanello Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT)The Antinori family has been producing wine in Tuscany since 1385, plenty of time to get really good at it! Tignanello is the original "Super Tuscan" being made since the 1970 vintage. This is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvingon, and 5% Cab Franc. I was really looking forward to trying this as my only experience with the legendary Tignanello was just one glass of 2005 at a hotel in London this spring. It was great to finally spend some time with a more mature Tignanello. My initial impression was how you could really taste the Cabernet Sauvingon in the blend, it gave a really nice sweet kick of black fruit and a hint of chocolate. I was impressed with how full bodied, yet balanced this wine was. It still was hanging onto firm but smooth tannins. Very delicious to pop open now but will also evolve for another few years and last much longer. Tignanello can also be picked up at Binny's for around $90 for the current vintage. Again give this one some time, seek out back vintages to get the full experience.
What a great evening; fantastic company, wine, and food. We'll be sure to head back to Caro Mio soon. No need for a special bottle of wine, just bring anything Italian......and your appetite.