“To be honest, we couldn’t afford to go further south,” Segni explains of his pale peach BYOB on the far North Side. “But we’re so confident in our food that we believe we’ll make it anywhere. The people who have found us have all said the food is excellent.”
They’re mostly right. Chef-partner Virgilio Trujillo came to Chicago from Mexico by way of Spain and has cooked locally at Smith & Wollensky, La Paella and Arco de Cuchilleros. At Marbella, he gives tapas top billing, but don’t skip the deceptively simple garlic soup, a rich chicken stock dotted with soft, roasted garlic cloves and hearty croutons. Continue the breath assault with the classic tortilla Española, which Trujillo packs with plenty of caramelized onions and serves slightly warm (request it cold if you want to stick with tradition).
Our favorites of the two dozen tapas come from the hot side of the menu—sautéed rings of squid slathered in a smoky and tart paste of paprika and lime, a standout combo of perfectly crisped potato cubes with firm slices of Spanish chorizo and slivers of roasted garlic, and the must-have higos con tocino, fresh mission figs roasted in a wrap of bacon and plated atop a brandy cream sauce that doubles as dessert. On our recent visit, everyone else in the room could be heard cooing over them as well. True, it was only four other people, but it’s a start.
3446 W Peterson Ave between Bernard St and St. Louis Ave (773-588-9922). Bus: 11, 84, 93. Lunch (Tue–Fri, Sun), dinner (Tue–Sun). Average tapa: $7. BYOB.