What could be better — and more authentically Italian — than noodles and naptime? That’s the basic concept behind new Avondale eatery Pisolino Italian Caffè (the name means “nap” in Italian), a quaint neighborhood spot from Chef James De Marte and his wife, event planner Rachel De Marte. “I refer to James as the ‘Nap King,’ ” Rachel laughs, explaining the restaurant’s moniker. “He picked up the habit [while working] in Italy.” Here’s what to expect at Pisolino:
Dining room: The 800-square-foot space is intimate but not crowded, and was designed by Rachel. “I was going [for] cozy and stylish,” she says. “It needed to not look like standard Italian places — no white tablecloths. [It has] its own style, a mash-up of modern eclectic with vintage pieces.” A mural of napping gondoliers is perfectly fitting.
< Fresh start: The fennel and orange salad (left, $8) is a popular starter, but we recommend the caponata Siciliana ($8), an eggplant bruschetta served with crostini. Also, share an order of the gnocchi alla Romana ($13) — but don’t expect the usual heavy potato dumplings. A De Marte specialty, the dish comes with three pillowy gnocchis that veer more toward polenta than pasta.
Pizza, please: Prior to opening, De Marte worked tirelessly to perfect his pizza dough; the result is a not-too-crispy, not-too-soft thin crust. The Giacomino ($21) is a crowd favorite, with fennel sausage, olives, creamy stracciatella cheese and rich black truffle puree.
Last sip: Having secured its liquor license just last week, Pisolino offers a selection of Italian wines by the bottle or quartino — a measurement slightly larger than a typical by-the-glass serving — plus cocktails and craft beers.
Open Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. (9 a.m. Saturday)-2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.; reservations not accepted. 2755 W. Belmont, (773) 293-6025; Pisolinochicago.com
Pictured at top: Bucatini carbonara, $13