Phil Stefani has had a remarkable career as a restaurateur, from Stefani’s, the restaurant he opened in 1980 on Fullerton Avenue, to Stefani Prime, which debuted in early April in Lincolnwood.
In all the years in between, Stefani has focused on steaks, seafood and Italian specialties. The ratio has varied from restaurant to restaurant — meat-centric at Tavern on Rush, seafood-dominant at Riva, pasta-rich at his various Tuscany locations.
As the name suggests, Stefani Prime skews a bit heavier on steaks and chops. Taken another way, the name is an affirmation that Phil Stefani’s restaurant game is as strong as ever.
You don’t come to a Stefani restaurant in search of culinary innovation or the Next Big Thing. You visit for utter reliability, a high-quality product that isn’t fussed over, and the unaffected, friendly professionalism of the front of the house....
The menu includes a number of longtime favorites, including the chicken Vesuvio that Stefani has been serving the same way (no peas, lig
ht on the garlic) since 1980. Fried calamari, another mainstay, is rendered capably.
Executive chef Nolan Narut is doing very good work here. He shows a deft touch with shrimp de Jonghe, a Chicago invention (as is chicken Vesuvio, come to think of it), striking the perfect balance of breadcrumbs and butter sauce. His 24-hour cured, lightly smoked salmon carpaccio is uncommonly subtle.
Knauer-designed interior has an open look, done in black, white and gray tones, and filled with contemporary art (not your classic Italianate steakhouse by a long shot). An outdoor deck should make its debut by early June.
By Phil Vettel Chicago Tribune