This Chicago burrata appetizer is one of the best in the country
Joey Skladany is an In The Know cooking contributor. Follow him on Instagram and visit his website for more.
“I’ve been a lot of places, seen a lot of faces,” may be the beginning of my favorite Lil’ Kim song, but it’s also the soundtrack of my life. As a food and travel writer, I really have been to a lot of places and seen a lot of the faces who have served me memorable dishes from all over the world.
But there is, perhaps, no appetizer that comes close to my all-time favorite in taste, texture and seasonality than Monteverde’s burrata e ham in Chicago.
Chef Sarah Grueneberg, the dish’s creator, has already established herself as the Windy City’s pasta princess. She specializes in creative spins on Italian classics, like her deconstructed gnocchetti con pesto or trendy cacio whey pepe (which incorporates the whey from ricotta for an extra umami bite). But it’s her burrata platter, with the soft cheese, rosemary tigelle (Italian flatbreads), Prosciutto di San Daniele, homemade prosciutto butter and seasonal mostarda (a Northern Italian condiment made of candied fruit and mustard-flavored syrup) that has me wondering why I don’t live within a half-mile radius of the restaurant.
“I fell in love with tigelle on one of my trips to Reggio Emilia. Cured meats, including prosciutto, culatello and mortadella, all hail from this region, and the tigelle is the perfect vessel for enjoying them,” she shared. “Traditionally, squacquerone cheese is served with the cured meats and tigelle, which is not imported here, so I choose my favorite soft creamy cow’s milk cheese: Burrata. We import ours weekly from Artigiana, which is hand-made in Puglia.”
“We also slice our prosciutto every day and take it very seriously,” Grueneberg added. “We also imported special tigelle panini presses from Italy to make the buns.”
What also makes the plate so special is that it is as interactive as it is customizable. Diners slice the warm bread in half and pile it high, with as many toppings and spreads as they want, to create a salty-sweet sandwich that harmoniously blends contrasting flavors, textures and temperatures to form what I believe to be the most perfect bite in America.
And the recipe is ever-changing, featuring a house-made fruit mostarda that reflects the produce in season.
“In spring, we’ll make a rhubarb and strawberry, and next on our list is melon. In fall, we’ll make one with apples, pears and cranberries,” says Grueneberg, who sometimes includes grilled or fresh varieties of fruits and veggies as an additional, heartier topper.
For anyone rushing to Chicago’s West Loop to enjoy the concoction firsthand, fear not: The dish, which has been on the menu since Monteverde’s inception, is here to stay.
“The burrata e ham is, hands-down, one of our most ordered and most-loved dishes and will hopefully be on for a long time to come,” reveals Grueneberg. “It is my guilty pleasure meal and a dish I consider perfect enough for ‘last meal ever’ status.”
Frankly, it’s a crime if you find yourself in Chicago and don’t book a reservation so you can taste this burrata dish.
If you’re interested in sampling some of Monteverde’s ingredients within the comfort of your own kitchen, check out the restaurant’s digital storefront at Here Here Market.
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