Community Dinner

The communal trend in restaurants is really starting to take over the world. First, it was an option to share small plates, now it is a requirement. “What? You want your own meal? Where do you think you are, Arby’s?” I am convinced that the next big thing is literally going to be a shared plate, with the stranger sitting next to you. The hipster diner will use the “going green” excuse and all of a sudden, it will be all the rage.

Based on my thoroughly researched evidence above, it was no surprise that Nico Osteria, the restaurant that requires a reservation three months in advance, had an updated version of communal tables: tiny tables for two that are an inch away from each other.

My dinner partner and I spent the first hour of our meal eavesdropping on the couple’s conversation next to us. This included a tear filled storm-off from the woman and lots of condescending digs from the man. We contemplated getting involved at one point, but ultimately decided against it.

Shockingly, plates are meant to be shared at Nico Osteria. Here is what we ordered:


Madai snapper crudo with kohlrabi salsa verde


Housemade bread with whole green olives baked in the loaf


Stracciatella with brussels sprouts, hazelnuts and parsley


Blurry Garganelli pasta with rock shrimp, arugula pesto and orange


Pan seared red snapper with clams, meyer lemon and sea-bean pistachio gremolata


Dark chocolate Nutella tart with orange sorbet

The quality of the food at Nico Osteria is “the best in the world” according to the waiter. According to me, it was good, but over hyped. With Chicago’s restaurant scene growing by the nanosecond, it is not uncommon for some of the best spots to be hidden gems, many of which are dives and dirt cheap. Thus, a shi shi location, twenty dollar drinks and a host who wants to take my cardigan to the coat check, no longer define the best of the best.

Bottom Line: Worth checking out, but not mind blowing.