Arancini at Next: Sicily
Pork shoulder at Next: Sicily
At some point, the thrill of Next will stale. It may take years, maybe a decade, but eventually the concept will feel contrived, and people will begin saying things like, “Why is Next so damn ADD?” and “When are they going to just pick a concept already?” In the very first moments of Next’s Sicily menu, I worried that moment had come. An envelope lay on the table; inside was a card with two handwritten sentiments about Sicily so cheesy they may as well have come from Rick Steves (they don’t—one comes from Goethe). Jeez-us, I thought. What next? Is Dave Beran going to wrap a handkerchief over his head and show up to the table dressed as a wise old signora? Okay, so maybe I overreacted. When I took a breath and just ate the food, I found myself lost in the darkest, deepest, color-of-blood tomato sauce, pooled at the bottom of a plate of arancini (pictured). When I dug into grilled artichokes, I spooned out soft, smoky centers. Pastas had worried me—I didn’t want to fill up on carbs—but it turns out I didn’t want to eat them much anyway (the one with uni was too bitter and metallic to handle). And yet by the time the pork shoulder—the beautiful, tender, savory pork shoulder of your dreams—arrived, I was still too crammed with food to eat as much as I wanted. Watching our server take way too much of that pork back to the kitchen, my companion asked: How? How can Next get this pork so right and other restaurants can’t? I don’t know the answer, but as long as Next is putting out food like that, the thrill of the place is going nowhere. 953 W Fulton Mkt (312-226-0858).