Review: Osteria Langhe Offers a Glimpse of the Piedmont Region of Italy in Chicago
This article is written by Bruce Kong.
It is no surprise that Italian cuisine is a staple in Chicago; much of what we know about it comes down to the core recipes we’ve grown up seeing on TV. Recipes like spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccine alfredo (which, in popular opinion, is not Italian), and lasagna are the core dishes that introduced us to Italian food.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: Italy consists of a vast number of regions, each with its unique selection of cuisine. Fortunately, they’ve shared their secrets, and we enjoy sharing food that fills us with joy and keeps us coming back for more. Osteria Langhe (2824 W. Armitage Ave) is a model of this.
Osteria, which translates directly to “restaurant,” or more specifically, Italian restaurant, are wine bars that serve simple dishes and shareable plates. It’s a casual, upbeat style of dining that makes nights with friends and families memorable.
Executive Chef Fabian Hernandez focuses exclusively on the Piedmont region, which sits in the northwest of Italy, bordering France and Switzerland at the foot of the Alps. Osteria Langhe is known for its homemade eggy pasta and Piedmontese wine. On top of that, Chef Hernandez and his crew offer various dishes that snag your tastebud’s attention, exploring the expensive wonders of Piedmonte ingredients like black and white truffles.
At first glance, Osteria Langhe presents itself well to its guests: their gleaming, stainless glass windows allow anyone walking past to peek inside the restaurant’s modern dining room; the outdoor patio makes for a pleasant meal, especially with the sun out. Be forewarned, however, that while they do take walk-ins, it would be wise to make a reservation in advance.
Despite my best efforts (we’ll blame Chicago traffic), I arrived late to my reservation and unfortunately, the front-of-house staff understandably gave my table to other diners. So instead, I sat at the bar with a cocktail to start my dinner.
Polipo E Gamberi is an appetizer that needs more attention and revitalizes seafood cakes. I must admit that I haven’t had much luck with seafood in the past; it’s a fragile protein that is easily contaminated if it’s not stored properly. The smallest error, whether leaving it out at room temperature, a shipping delay, or an unattended expiration date, can leave any diner with food poisoning. I speak from experience – it wasn’t entirely bad – but it wasn’t good either. Let’s just say that I had to visit my bathroom more than once. But I knew I had to try it this time, and I’m glad I listened to my conscience.
Saffron cream adds a subtle sweet taste to the dish, olives provide salty bitterness, and creamy mashed potatoes are always an excellent supplement. There were a lot of different elements at play in this dish that I believe to be redundant, such as the chips on the side, but most I thought paired well together.
It’s impossible to undercook duck confit, yet at the same time, there’s a high probability that you can overcook a duck leg. If it comes out of the oven mushy, odds are it’s overcooked. Osteria Langhe did this dish justice with a duck leg falling off the bone, neither mushy nor stringy; the seared skin added a pleasant crunch.
However, while the confit duck leg was great, there were flaws to this dish. The cannellini beans gave an earthy and nutty taste yet were bland nonetheless. There wasn’t much going on for this dish besides the Marinello black truffle shavings on top. However, while truffles are a different breed in the culinary industry they can’t excuse the lack of components in this dish.
I miss the days of simplicity being in the picture; it’s easy to get lost in the complexity of experimenting with food. The risotto doesn’t show a speck of classism but welcomes any diner to the table with its easygoing and delectable ingredients.
The risotto was a creamy and buttery delicacy that left me feeling nostalgic after one bite. The cascades of my trip to Italy suddenly reappeared at the taste of black truffles; an explosion of umami and earthiness re-introduced themselves with open arms. And who could ever forget about the beauty of a sunny-side-up egg?
Different elements can make a great dish; one minor ingredient mishap can have grave consequences. In this case, the arborio rice was undercooked and gritty; chewing on it left unsettling bits of dried grain rolling around the flat surface of my tongue. A missed opportunity indeed.
I enjoyed my time at Osteria Langhe; the staff was attentive and hospitable: one greeting from the bartender was enough to let me know that it would be a great dining experience. The food was of quality value and stood out in vibrant colors to attract customers’ attention. Unfortunately, you can’t eat the presentation, and that’s a hard truth to succumb to.
Bruce is a native Wisconsinite who moved to Chicago on January 2023. He focuses on food writing and restaurant reviews, but looks to branch out and write for other topics of interest when the moment presents itself. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in 2022 with his BFA in Writing and ApplIed Arts.
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