Jose M. Osorio/Tribune
March 13, 2013
Who eats: This Symphony Center dining room pulls in jacket-and-tie Loop workers, lunching ladies and batches of tourists clutching Art Institute gift bags.
Why eat: Chef Dean Zanella, a skilled Italian chef who worked at 312 Chicago and Aldino's, came on board a year ago and has this often-overlooked restaurant humming.
Ambience: Contemporary, white-table elegance, soft whites and polished wood throughout; outdoor patio beyond French doors offers a garden view, and the spaciousness of a hotel dining room. Handsome, dark-wood lounge and bar by front entrance.
Dress code: A surprising number of ties present; even the tourists have made an effort. Slob Factor close to zero.
Noise factor: On nights when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is playing, pre-performance dinners can be rather noisy. Lunch, though, is almost whisper-quiet, partly because the dining room is rarely full.
Overheard: Earnest discussion on what new computer program would do "for accessibles;" woman detailing her "new reports" to male companion/co-worker; women making party plans and remarking, "If we do, we'll have to invite the neighbors."
Menu: Classic and contemporary Italian; rustic food in magazine-worthy, pretty arrangements. Dinner-size main courses at dinner prices ($20s), but entree salads and panini considerably less. Dessert list includes a handful of $4 "mini" desserts for those who just want two sweet bites.
Reliable options: Pillow-soft gnocchi with shredded rabbit meat; aggressively peppered wagyu carpaccio (might overwhelm some). Salmon with rapini and sweet cherry tomatoes. The cupcake of the day (chocolate-raspberry on this visit) is fun.
Worth noting: Brief, lower-priced lounge menu available days and evenings (and late night) in lounge.
Service: Attentive and whisper-quiet. Bread basket whisked to table moments after arriving. Refills handled adroitly. Silverware, side plates, bread replaced between courses.
Reservations: By phone or at opentable.com.
Expect to pay: $50 to $70 for two.
Cellphone reception/Wi-Fi: Full cell reception throughout; free Wi-Fi access available in lounge.
Contacts: 312-786-9911; rhapsodychicago.com.
-- Phil Vettel