Elegant, artful fish – Stephanie Izard’s Bucktown eatery is ready for spring

Michael Nagrant / 04.10.07

Stephanie Izard has been “playing restaurant” since age 10.  Back then, that meant dreaming up a menu for her friends and family.  But as the owner/chef of two-year-old Scylla, she has garnered critical acclaim for her clean, elegant seafood presentations.  Izard’s at the top of her game.

After earning two degrees, one in sociology at the University of Michigan and the other from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Izard honed her craft with fish while working under Shawn McClain at Spring in Wicker Park.  In 2005, she opened her own place, a red-brick worker’s cottage in Bucktown where the arched roof, hardwood floors and window coves retain homey character.  Scylla has a warmth and lived-in aura that reinforces boisterous gatherings of friends and family breaking bread.

The opening sizzle simmered over time, but Izard’s recent menu retooling is likely to renew interest. Her goal: to keep entree prices less than $20 and make Scylla more neighborhood-friendly.  While she relies less on luxury ingredients like truffles, Kobe beef or caviar, Izard employs a bit of alchemy, transforming seemingly ordinary pantry items like shallots into a savory, oniony custard.  The food might cost less, but the flavors and quality are as tremendous as ever.

Q. What do you wish you could change about the Chicago restaurant scene?

A. More places to eat late night than the usual suspects of fast-food and Mexican joints.

Q. What would your last meal be?

A. Sushi and french fries.

Q. Where do you eat before/after a shift?

A. Arturo’s Tacos at Western and Armitage.  I usually get the tostado carnitas.

Q. What’s Scylla’s can’t-miss dish?

A. Scallops, but right now I’m very excited about the new spring menu.  One of the dishes is the sauteed French gnocchi with Manila clams, white asparagus, green garlic, sea beans and a truffle poblano broth.

Q. What should we know about your restaurant that we probably don’t?

A. The menu has changed.  Now everything is under $20.

Scylla; 1952 N. Damen, Chicago (773) 227-2995

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