December is clearly the month for major Italian restaurant openings, as Mike Sheerin's Cicchetti (671 N St Clair St) opens today. The new restaurant sets itself apart from other high-profile openings (Nico Osteria is Paul Kahan's seafood-centric restaurant, while Eataly is, well, a beast unto itself) by focusing on Venetian small plates. Sheerin, late of Trenchermen, which he ran with his brother Pat, teamed up with sous chefs Phil Rubino (Acadia, Moderno) and Sarah Jordan (the Boka group's former pastry chef) to open Cicchetti, a name which comes from the Venetian term for small plates.
"There are a lot of classic Italian dishes that are Venetian,” Sheerin said. “Polenta is one, squid ink another classic. There’s a good amount of seafood on the menu, like oysters, raw crudos.”
He says that he chose Venetian cuisine since the city was once a major spot on trade routes.
“Because of its location, there are a lot of eastern influences and western influences,” he says. “I didn’t want to do just a red sauce restaurant. We can use different styles of spices, peppercorn blends and make things like harissa, which is a big thing in the Mediterranean.”
Look for Italian meatballs in pancetta tomato sauce, roasted olives, pork cracklins and salads, along with pasta, risotto, fish and meat dishes. Sheerin says that classic cicchetti include bruschetta and bacalao fritters, which appear on the menu. Lunch will include many of the same dishes as dinner, as well as panini and frittatas. The beverage program, helmed by Daniel Casteel, focuses on Italian aperitifs and amaros, along with Italian wines and beers.
Cicchetti opens at 11am for lunch Monday–Friday and dinner daily at 5pm.