Piano Terra, Tony Mantuano's new concept at the Art Institute, will open May 25

Tony Mantuano

Tony Mantuano

If you work anywhere near the Art Institute, you might be privy to the semi-secret that is the museum's North Garden. On warm days, the garden is an ideal spot for lunch: Shady, pretty and—because not so many people know about it—serene.

Well, say goodbye to all that. The North Garden is soon become a major lunch attraction, because Tony Mantuano is turning part of the garden into Piano Terra, an extension of his Modern Wing restaurant, Terzo Piano. Will the downside (more people) be balanced out by the upside (Mantuano's food)? Let's look at the menu and see:

Piano Terra ("ground floor") will essentially be an alfresco salad bar, with the made-to-order salads comprised of the following elements (these are just examples; Piano will post updates on ingredients on @pianoterraAIC):

LETTUCE: Spinach; red and green leaf; romaine

PROTEIN: Grilled chicken; crisp lamb bacon; chopped faro

CHEESE: Marinated mozzarella; shaved aged goat's milk cheese; Big Ed's gouda

DRESSING: Balsamic; cashew ginger; creamy lemon herb

VEGETABLES: Diced local tomato; roasted green onion; cucumber; shaved celery; roasted peppers; chopped herbs

But since Chicagoans cannot exist on salad alone, Piano will also offer a vegetable sandwich on housemade focaccia, some sides (marinated olives; kale chips), dessert (semifreddo-on-a-stick is in the works), espresso drinks and housemade sodas. (As at Terzo, the ingredients at Piano will lean towards local, organic, etc.)

Those of you who would forsake eating a Mantuano-tossed salad in favor of an uncrowded garden should get to the North Garden quick—Piano Terra opens on May 25.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)