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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

[Special Event] Chef's Table at La Madia

The CPC will make an official visit to La Madia soon to review its pizza offerings, but 4 members recently attended the first of a new monthly Chef's Table series. It ended up being such a nice time that I almost hesitate to share the details of future meetings with you given the space limitations, but alas CPC is bigger than me.

La Madia
59 W. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 329-0400

Members of the CPC visited the Chef's Table at La Madia on 8/06/08.

At La Madia, Chef Jonathan Fox has quickly become known for serving wood-fired pizza in a stylish setting. On August 6, 2008, he kicked off a monthly Chef's Table series that will take place at 7:00 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month for the very reasonable cost of $25 per person. The Chef's Table showcases La Madia's pizza and non-pizza offerings in a series of fixed courses, paired with wines and explained by the Chef himself.

The 12 lucky people with reservations for the Chef's Table seat themselves at the Pizza Bar towards the back of the restaurant, where they can look through the glass divider to observe the prep work and watch the pizzas as they bubble in the oven. The August Chef's Table offered 7 courses, some of which were on the current menu and some of which were not. After Chef Fox introduced himself and served some sparkling white wine, we enjoyed the following courses:

  • Locally grown cantelope melon and prosciutto di Parma, served with Pisoni, Lucy, Rosé of Pinot Noir '07
  • Toasted bruschetta of wild mushrooms & sweet onions (recipe)
  • Heirloom Beet Salad, with watercress, salt-roasted almonds, & Gorgonzola, served with Cambria, Chardonnay '05
  • Shaved artichoke pizza with Reggiano Parmesan & garlic
  • Diver Sea Scallops with fingerling potatoes & sweet corn, served with Roco, Pinot Noir '05
  • Triple pepperoni pizza
  • Chocolate Tortino, served with Lindemans Framboise Lambic Ale
This was a lot of quality food and drink for $25. It is clear that care is taken to seek out fresh, high-quality ingredients and put them together in a way that reveals the depth of their flavors. La Madia serves only the best when it comes to Italian staples such as prosciutto and Parmesan. The mushrooms and onions on the bruschetta were great, sitting on a thin layer of whipped ricotta cheese. My favorite dish was the scallop, which was cooked perfectly and went really well with the sweetness of the cooked cherry tomatoes, balanced out with the potatoes and corn.

Obviously, our main overall focus was the pizza. We'll do an official review soon, but the artichoke and pepperoni pizzas included in the chef's menu were great. The shaved artichoke went really well with the shaved Parmesan, and the pepperoni heaped on the pizza was nice and spicy. After dinner, when Fox talked to us about his pizza and noticed us salivating at his description of the house-made fennel sausage, he very generously whipped up a sausage pizza for us on the house. Readers, we can be bought, but when I say the sausage pizza was fantastic, it is not just a reflection of the chef's generosity.

I'm glad we had a chance to try the sausage pizza because I think it gave us a better sense of what La Madia pizza is all about, since the artichoke pizza does not have tomato sauce, and the triple pepperoni is so dominated by the pepperoni. As you can see in the photos, the pizza dough is covered with a very thin layer of sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes. The cheese is spread out very generously, and then the toppings are added evenly before it all goes into the oven for about 3 minutes. We noticed that the pie-makers would lift each pepperoni-topped pizza up and hold it close to the top of the oven before removing it, giving it a nice crispness without burning it. The crust is evenly cooked and it is soft rather than stiff, but it does not get soggy. Or at least we we did not leave it on the plate long enough for that to happen.

Chef Fox and his business partner, Tony, were very friendly and took time to explain how they came up with the concept for their restaurant. They met while they were both involved in the business side of the restaurant industry, and Fox's background as a chef and long-standing passion for Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza led to the creation of La Madia. Fox shared that his favorite pizza outside Chicago is Da Michele in Naples, and La Madia is clearly inspired by the Neopolitan basics, though with less sauce and more toppings.

Overall, we enjoyed the Chef's Table and left the restaurant thinking about making reservations for the September event. But for now, we're looking forward to returning and trying the rest of the pizza.

The Chef's Table with a view of the kitchen

Chef Jonathan Fox prepares the first course: Cantelope and Prosciutto di Parma

Toasted Bruschetta of Wild Mushrooms

Shaved Artichoke Pizza with Shaved Parmesan

Diver Sea Scallop with Fingerling Potatoes and Sweet Corn

The dough is covered in a thin layer of sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes

Triple Pepperoni Pizza

Chocolate Tortino and Framboise Lambic Ale

Bonus Pizza! with House-Made Fennel Sausage

Pizzas are prepared for other diners in the restaurant

The oven

La Madia on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. La Madia's website says, "Art of Pizza. Love of wine." Which may have influenced what I thought the evening would be. I truely thought a seat at the pizza bar for the Chef's Table special event meant that we were eating lots of pizzas paired with lots of wines. Boy was I wrong. We had a heck of a lot more than just pizza! ...and for $25?!!! Chef Fox even said, "We know we could charge more, but we just don't want to." Wow. I want to give that man's mother a big hug. What a guy! You couldn't drink the wines we had alone for $25! The food was phenomenal, the wine was wonderful, and I am glad I got to share the experience with my good friends of the Chicago Pizza Club. (PS- I will not comment on pizza specifically until we get to have an official meeting, but woah. The fennel sausage WILL blow your mind.)