Who doesn’t love a bowl of handmade noodles, all eggy and rich, covered with a sauce made out of mushrooms or plenty of cream and cheese?
Steve Warner knows their appeal. His Restaurant Week menu for Tiu Steppi’s Osteria features several entree options, which you can get served over handmade fettucine, if you like. Mashed Yukon gold potatoes is another option, if you prefer.
Those noodles were a welcome nest for Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Florentine. At the center of the chicken breast meat, kept moist by the prosciutto, was a scoop of warm sauteed spinach, all of which melted together over in a cheesy sauce made with Parmesan, asiago and mozzarella. But even better were the oven-dried tomatoes that added a bright touch that cut through all that velvety sauciness.
Yellow and green pasta were the base chosen for the 8-ounce beef tenderloin, which was topped with gorgonzola, garlic and chives. The meat could have used a little more marbling for flavor, but it worked well with the rest of the ingredients in the dish, including a porcini mushroom sauce. That sauce had full mushroom flavor, but we wondered if powdered porcini had been used to achieve that, because the slices in the sauce looked more like cremini or button cap.
If you’ve ever been to Tiu Steppi’s on a Saturday night, Restaurant Week notwithstanding, you likely have faced a wait. When my colleague Bonnie Walker and I arrived, we were informed that it would be 30 minutes before we got an inside seat, but we were also told that we could start our meal on the patio. Thanks to a giant fan that kept the air moving, sitting on the patio wasn’t unpleasant, but we actually got our table before our first course arrived.
So we settled down in the air conditioned comfort of the cozy dining room just as our order of smoked salmon carpaccio arrived with plenty of welcome, salty capers on top. It disappeared so quickly that it might not seem possible for us to have noticed how carefully layered the flavors were, but we did enjoy the tang of the lemon dressing along with the peppery arugula and bitter radicchio.
Our other start was a lively Caesar salad with plenty of anchovy flavor — thanks go to our waitress for pointing that out — along with fresh garlic, tangy grape tomatoes and salty Parmesan cheese.
Dessert brought the lone misstep of the evening. A dish listed as Coffee and Doughnuts featured cappuccino semi-freddo and house-made doughnuts dusted in cinnamon sugar. It certainly looked impressive when it arrived, but the semi-freddo, which is supposed to be soft, had frozen rock hard, and that forced the texture off balance, leaving each bite slick and overly unctuous. The doughnuts may have been made in house, but they had also been made a long time before they were served and had partially dried out.
The dark chocolate torte was an unqualified success, silky and rich yet light enough after that filling dinner.
A fine meal, pleasant service and steady air conditioning, so bracing after a day of manual labor, certainly made for an enjoyable evening. But the intimacy of Tiu Steppi’s carried our fun Saturday one step further. The people around us were really enjoying themselves. A family next to us were visiting for the first time, and they raved about their meat-laden pizza, while enjoying the looks of the dishes that arrived at ours. That easy-going give-and-take made us really feel at home.
Tiu Steppi’s Osteria
9910 West Loop 1604 North #123