Italian How It’s Supposed to Be

For these bitty restaurant reviews, in addition to the restaurant itself, I like to talk about what I ate and drank. It helps me define whether or not the food was drop your fork amazing or just this will hold off starvation for another few hours.

I can’t really do that with the restaurant I’m about to review. Mostly because my sister and I ordered about half the menu. (And, it’s a pretty sizable menu.) Small plates… that’s how they get you! Please keep reading, because even though I know we’re all so tired of small plates… this one will change your mind.

Ombra LogoEmily and I went to Ombra in Andersonville for her birthday a while back. It’s Italian, but not the kind of Italian you’re thinking about. This isn’t a pasta and pizza joint. This is cuisine inspired by northeastern Italy, specifically the Triveneto which includes Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtriol, and my grandparents’ point of origin, Friuli-Venezia Giulia. This is food that is heavy on the vegetables and grains with barely a tomato sauce to be found.

The room is rustic (chic rustic not damp basement rustic) and along one wall is the bar. First the alcohol bar and then the food bar. As you make your way to your seats (or even after you have your table), take a walk by. You’ll see most of the dishes that are on the menu. If you’re lucky enough, you can sit at the bar like we did… and that’s where our problems started.

What We Ate

So, we’re sitting in front of everything. And, it all looked amazing. And, the plates are small. And, the cocktails are a delight. And, the wine list is decent. All of this basically means that you can eat and eat and eat some more and then you look up and you say, “Holy poo. We’ve been here for four hours.” And, then you call the waiter over for just one more bite.

I’m not going to list everything that we ate. But, here are the highlights:

  • Farro, asparagus, roasted mushrooms, green garlic from the cicchetti menu: A small portion of grains with the veggies and garlic in a light vinegary sauce.
  • Arancini neri: Chopped black squid rolled into a ball and coated with something akin to breadcrumbs but better. Then, cooked or fried or I don’t care. I could have eaten a dozen of them myself.
  • Ceci beans in an olive vinaigrette: A simple presentation for this lowly bean (chickpeas, kids… keep up). But simple is best here.
  • Arugula with parmigiano: Again, simple and fantastic.

Things that were good, but I’d probably pass on them next time:

  • Prosciutto off of the salumi menu: Don’t get me wrong, cured meat is tasty no matter where you eat it. But, I like my prosciutto sliced thin. The jam and mustard that was served with it was top notch. But, there wasn’t enough bread for the meat. So, I ended up dipping prosciutto in jam and eating it that way. (Not bad, just not ideal).
  • The oysters. They were flaky and just kind of eh.

We ate a ton of other stuff, but I won’t bore you with the details. You should just go and see for yourself.

What We Drank

I started with a Bellini (Prosecco and seasonal fruit puree… which I think was raspberry and watermelon, but I can’t be sure.) My sister had a gin-based cocktail.

Then, we split a bottle of wine for a ridiculously reasonable price. All of the wines by the glass are listed on the blackboard behind the food bar. If you want to get a bottle, ask for the wine list… it’s a bit more extensive.

We finished off the night with limoncello (made in house…. but it’s pretty easy to make).

I’m heartily recommending this place for a pop-in and stay awhile. The service is good, the room is happy, and the food is just downright good.

Location: 5310 N. Clark. Parking is ridiculous so be prepared to walk.

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