Though I was initially skeptical about dining at Formento’s, I’m happy to announce that not only is it an awesome restaurant in general, it’s also one of the best Restaurant Week deals available this year!
3 simple observations from our meal:
- You get four courses for $44 (which ends up being around $60 after tax and tip) – whereas ordering everything regularly would cost anywhere between $64 to $75 before tax and tip!
- Formento’s includes many signature dishes on the Restaurant Week menu, like Nonna’s Meatballs, Bucatini and Chocolate Cake, while other restaurants throw cheaper and less popular dishes on their RW menus to make a buck.
- They do not skimp on portions – overall, the amount of food we had was very reasonable. I was quite full by the end, and brought home more than half of my meal in leftovers.
Like many restaurants in West Loop, Formento’s is a bougie, upscale restaurant with dim lighting and a nicer, though informal dress code. It’s the type of restaurant where someone will come and switch your utensils between every course.
To start, we had some focaccia bread and garlic olive oil. I could smell the bread as soon as it hit our table, it was that aromatic. The warm and slightly toasted bites were a subtle highlight of our meal.
Nonna’s Meatballs (First Course) were moist and flavorful, though just a tad bit too salty. They were about the size of a tangerine and served with a fresh-tasting tomato sauce, garnished with some chopped herbs. In hindsight, two meatballs per serving is a little heavy, and the meatballs would probably have been better split between Natalie and I.
My Rigatoni (Second Course) was very hearty – al dente pasta tossed in a pork neck gravy dolloped with a scoop of rich ricotta cheese – and made for a mouthful of balanced textures and flavors. In the tomato-based gravy sauce, I could really taste the pork, which had a consistency reminiscent of tender, pulled pork.
It was served with half a link of a fennel sausage that carried through the warm, anise flavor of the fennel. The texture of the link tasted very fresh compared to other processed sausages I’ve had before. It was also served with yet another meatball, which I saved to take home because I was satiated from the first course.
Honestly, I barely touched the Brick Chicken (Third Course) because I was pretty full at that point and wanted to save room for dessert. The portions of chicken were very generous – my entree came with two large pieces of chicken – and the texture of the chicken skin was very crispy. You could drag your fork across it and hear it. However, the meat itself was a bit bland, which was a disappointment.
The chicken was served atop a bed of vegetables – roasted mushrooms, juicy cherry tomatoes and soft pearl onions. A curious, creamy mash piped along the side of the bowl looked and tasted vaguely like mashed parsnips.
Apparently Formento’s is famous for their Chocolate Cake (Dessert), and for a good reason. Rich and moist cake layered between dark chocolate mousse, served with hazelnut praline and a few hazelnuts atop makes for a luscious bite. It’s the grownup birthday cake of dreams.
A few notes on Natalie’s meal:
The Bucatini (Second Course) was delicious! The few mouthfuls I had might have been my favorite out of the whole meal. Formento’s take on carbonara manifested in forkfuls of thick pasta coated with a creamy cheese sauce, complemented with bits of crispy pancetta and topped with a raw egg yolk and a few cracks of fresh black pepper. Bucatini is a sort of cross between spaghetti and macaroni, in that it has a hole running through the middle of the long strand. As I bit through the pasta, I got what tasted like licks of salted, starchy pasta water mixed with the carbonara cream sauce, which was actually kind of delicious.
Her Branzino (Third Course) was comically small compared to my huge plate of chicken, but was apparently her favorite dish. Branzino is a flaky, white fish that was cooked and seasoned very well and served with pea tips – an ingredient used frequently in Chinese cooking – crispy garlic and a grilled lemon. It looked petite, elegant and light, contrasted with my portion-heavy, rich chicken entree.
For dessert, she opted for the Tiramisu Cheesecake. My slice of chocolate cake definitely outshined the tiramisu, but I will note that the coffee gelato atop the delicate round of cheesecake tasted intensely of coffee!
Overall, Formento’s is a great place for a fancy date or even a special family occasion. I would likely come back and try other menu items and some wine, though I probably wouldn’t go through the trouble of ordering four courses!
925 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607