When JT's Urban Italian opened a couple of weeks ago, the Elmwood Village got an upscale neighborhood place that felt like it had been there for years.
Even on a gloomy Monday night, families and couples and clutches of old friends came out of the rain, out of Ubers and from under umbrellas to fill up the new restaurant at Elmwood and West Delavan avenues.
Before the drizzle stopped, tables on the ground floor of the two-story restaurant were mostly full and the bar was busy with drinkers and diners.
A basket of fresh foccacia studded with cloves of roasted garlic arrived, followed by a server wielding olive oil and vinegar bottles, to fill a dipping saucer to your specifications.
For decades, wood-fired pizza has been a hallmark of JT's predecessors – Siena, 800 Maple, Rocco's – and the tradition continues.
The meatball pizza ($15) offered a crackling crust and judicious amounts of sliced meatballs, rapini and banana peppers, for a rousing combination of flavors – spicy and salty, bitter and rich.
Calamari ($15) with smoked paprika and preserved lemon aioli was a tangle of tentacles and rings. Its coating was among the most delicate I can remember.
Oysters ($16), baked with herbed hollandaise sauce with bacon and Pernod, were a particularly indulgent way to enjoy fresh shellfish.
Chicken wings ($13), roasted in the wood-fired oven, glazed with balsamic barbecue sauce and served with spicy blue cheese dip, were a sticky two-napkin snack. The treatment left most of the chicken skin soft, making me wish for the crispness of the Rocco's version.
The pasta section includes two house-made pastas, including tagliatelle primavera ($24). This night's featured a riot of fresh vegetables, including peas, cherry tomatoes, zucchini and mushrooms.
My favorite dish of the night was the salmon salad ($21). Lightly charred salmon, bitter greens and the juicy tang of pink grapefruit in fragrantly herbal green goddess dressing made for a rousing, refreshing plate.
JT's has plenty of full-weight entrees to offer. There are steaks ($35-$39) and entrees like a half chicken ($28) and bronzino ($38), which our server informed us arrives disassembled into filets, instead of as a whole fish. There's also two sharing-oriented plates, a Pork Trilogy (pork shank, meatballs, sausage) on rigatoni ($39) and a shellfish risotto ($48).
There's also a full dance card of house-made desserts, from doughnuts to cheesecake and a hot fudge sundae. On this night, I figured I should stop while I could still walk.
I'll be back – and I'll be sure to make reservations when I do.
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