Ristorante Al Teatro [Closed]

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Photograph: Martha Williams
Pilsen

While I was tracking Pilsen’s Ristorante Al Teatro to cover the opening, a call to chef Giovanni Zonca (La Madia, Ballo and Follia) revealed that the would-be opening chef had left the project, alleging that owner Dominick Geraci owed him some dough (which Geraci himself admitted to me, but claimed “[Zonca] will be paid”) and was assembling an inexperienced staff that Zonca felt wouldn’t cut the mustard.

While I was tracking Pilsen’s Ristorante Al Teatro to cover the opening, a call to chef Giovanni Zonca (La Madia, Ballo and Follia) revealed that the would-be opening chef had left the project, alleging that owner Dominick Geraci owed him some dough (which Geraci himself admitted to me, but claimed “[Zonca] will be paid”) and was assembling an inexperienced staff that Zonca felt wouldn’t cut the mustard.

All drama aside, Zonca turned out to be right. Both the front and the back of the house seem incapable. And I entered Al Teatro with an open mind and an empty stomach. Neither were satisfied when I left. The historic Thalia Hall building might look impressive at first glance, but a closer inspection reveals that aside from gleaming tin ceiling panels, the remainder of the room is Macaroni Grill–level tacky: a faux-marble paint job on the walls is dotted with reclining Rubenesque women, blue and gold upholstery seems lifted from a Greek cruise ship, and there’s even a campy wine press in the basement flanked by fake ivy and a trickling fountain. Sadly, the staff is just as misguided. Sweet but incredibly green servers fumble with pronunciations, offer incorrect info on both food and wine, and neglect even an “oops” (let alone tell a manager) when we point out that a grilled sausage link is indeed raw. Not pink. Raw.

Which brings us to the food. Gnocchi sat like lead balloons in a pool of lukewarm four-cheese sauce. An odd, ceviche-like treatment of shrimp only intensified its mushy fishiness. That undercooked sausage came with unseasoned, tepid white beans. Housemade gelato was intensely sweet, overly slick and a tad gummy. The best of the bunch, the thin-crust pizza, mine topped with prosciutto, artichokes and olives, can only be described as “decent.” I realize it all sounds quite brutal, but I’m actually sighing with disappointment that Geraci didn’t prove the skeptics wrong.

By Heather Shouse

 

Venue name: Ristorante Al Teatro [Closed]
Contact:
Address: 1227 W 18th St
Chicago

Cross street: at Allport St
Opening hours: Dinner
Transport: El stop: Pink to 18th. Bus: 9, 18, 60, 168.
Price: Average main course: $18
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