Having written about restaurants for a while now, I’ve developed a system of indisputable rules. One of the most rock-solid principles I’ve observed is this: Restaurants that feature their addressâ€”either numerals or streetâ€”in their name usually aren’t very good.
However, there are always exceptions to the rule, and Americano 2211 (located at, you guessed it, 2211 W. North Ave.) is one. The name isn’t just a nod to the fact that they serve coffee here. It also reflects the fact that the restaurant from Chris Pappas (The Winchester, Sepia) and Nancy Silver (Blackbird, Charlie Trotter’s) is an American take on the traditional European cafe. And eventually, when they get their liquor license, they’ll also offer Americano cocktails, a twist on the negroni featuring Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda. The â€œ2211â€ touch was simply a logical solution to the trademark problem.
â€œIt turns out there’s 100 places with Americano in their name, and we didn’t want to get sued,â€ Pappas said.
â€œI never say the 2211 ever. It’s just Americano,â€ Silver added.
While there may be a bunch of places with similar names, I’m willing to bet none of them has a prosciutto- and gruyere-stuffed croissant as good as Silver’s.
â€œI have one part-time helper from The French Pastry School, so with the limited staff, we agreed we wouldn’t do any laminated doughs,â€ Silver said. â€œBut then [a few weeks ago] we threw that out the window.â€
I’m glad she did. It’s a travesty that in a city as large as Chicago there are very few truly great croissants. In fact, I’ve had an impossible time finding a consistently amazing one, though La Boulangerie’s is pretty good. The croissant is important to me not because of past romantic trysts in Paris spent chowing down on the crescent-shaped pastry in the Champ de Mars under the Eiffel Tower. Though I have done that.
Rather, when I was a student at the University of Michigan, the one thing I’d splurge on every week with my limited funds was a super flaky ham- and gruyere-filled croissant at a place called Jacque’s Patisserie that’s since closed. Hungover or having failed an organic chemistry exam, it never failed to boost my spirits.
I hadn’t had a croissant like it until I bit into Silver’s version. Visually, hers features a shiny exterior and an airy, bubbled interior. It looks like a food porn prop from some glossy magazine. The pastry flakes on the tongue and dissolves into a salty, nutty finish from the pork and cheese innards. Though my university days are long gone, I still have the occasional nightmare that I didn’t graduate college or show up for a key exam. Knowing these beauties are out there means I’m going to sleep a lot better from now on.
Worth the trip:Â Prosciutto & gruyere croissant ($5.50) at Americano 2211
2211 W. North Ave. 773-360-8757
This article first appeared in Redeye Chicago in a different form.