Henri Transforms Into Acanto, Now Open on South Michigan AvenueBy Sarah Freeman
August 19, 2014
French restaurants are so last year. In this, the year of the primi pastas and wood-fired pizzas, Italian is the new standard in dining. Which must have been on the mind of Billy Lawless (The Gage and The Dawson) when he decided to transform Henri into Acanto. The team ditched the white tablecloths and crystal fixtures for light wood tables and an entoeca vibe with an extensive wine list, an imported cheese program and duck egg spaghetti.
Christopher Gawronski maintains his position as executive chef with a new, small-plates menu that reflects a more elegant side of Italian dining. Here, the classic combo of cantaloupe and prosciutto di parma is served with shaved cucumber and creamy burrata in a sea of mint broth. Two pizzas are offered: a traditional margherita and a seasonal variation (currently, tomatoes and figs). Pastas also lend themselves to seasonality with options including sweet corn agnolotti and taleggio caramelli with roasted, pickled beets.
Beverage director Jon McDaniels has compiled a wine list that takes drinkers of a journey to Piemonte with Rosa di Rosa or Tuscany with a 1982 Il Poggio. The menu, which spans 20 pages, is broken down by type, flavor profile and region, including some rare orange wines and non-Italian bottles. Non-wine drinkers can start with one an aperitivo, such as a the #3, made with Carpano Antica and wood-grilled orange soda. Each cocktail is labeled by number — the #7, for example, combines grappa with Pineau des Charantes, lemon and chai tea syrup.
The bar area is one of the more recognizable features from the previous space. The curved marble bar remains with a new chalkboard highlighting specials. The dining room has been outfitted with caramel-colored leather banquettes as well as a light wood tables contrasted by dark wood chairs. A wine wall is stocked with even more bottles or reds and whites that match the deep red walls. It encourages guests to stay a while, have a second glass and get comfortable in a way that its predecessor did not.
Acanto opened to the public last night.
18 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-578-0763