Matt Maroni announces new restaurant
After a year spent spearheading the local movement to legalize fully operational mobile kitchens in Chicago, Matt Maroni of
Morso (an Italian term for "nibble") has been percolating as a potential project for Maroni for a couple of years, but he couldn't find the right partner to seal the deal. Enter Brian Troglia, a local attorney specializing in restaurants, bars and nightclubs (who counts Alinea among his clients). After hearing about Maroni's efforts to implement new regulations in Chicago's food truck industry, Troglia and Maroni joined forces, helping move forward the proposal that is currently waiting to be reintroduced in City Council. "We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well over the last year, working together on the food truck issue, and I love his street food," Troglia says. "But then we started looking at trying to get him back into the local culinary scene in a big way. He did a tasting that blew everyone away, so we decided to help put him in a brick and mortar."
The "everyone" includes Troglia and John Held, previously partners in Terragusto on Armitage, so when the last iteration of the struggling restaurant—Pasta Terra—fizzled, the team (minus chef Theo Gilbert, who will remain focused on the original Terragusto on Addison) brought Maroni into the fold. Those dishes that blew his partners away at the initial tasting (and which will anchor Morso when it opens in early August) include a tuna carpaccio roll with lobster, mango and cucumber; veal sweetbreads with smoked tomato relish and avocado puree; wild boar belly with white bean salad, dates and olive puree; and seared antelope loin "tonnato" with caperberries, dandelion greens and shaved parm. The share plates lineup for dinner is 18 deep, ranging in price from $9 to $24, and organized into categories of raw, shellfish, game, offal and vegetables. Maroni's pastry partner in crime, Nate Meads of Fritz Pastry, will serve as dessert consultant, while Maroni handles the weekend brunch menu, opening with lemon ricotta pancakes topped by huckleberry chutney and crème fraiche, a duck sausage Scotch egg and carrot cake French toast. Maroni has also assembled the drink list, an assortment of roughly 20 craft beers, 30 to 40 "boutique" wines and a handful of both beer and wine cocktails. As for the space, the team is "lightening it up a little," putting in pearl-white wallpaper and copper sconces with the goal of creating a brighter but still rustic main dining room. An upstairs lounge will feature a separate bar menu and serve food until midnight on weekdays, 1am on weekends.
As for gaztro-wagon and the local food truck scene, Maroni swears he'll remain committed to both "keeping the movement going and growing that business day by day as well"—meaning he won't ditch the wheels he rode in on.