BYOB at Caro Mio

WCWG outside of Caro MioThis past Wednesday, my wife and I teamed up with Chris and Kristina Caruso of Vine Times Chicago for a BYOB evening at Caro Mio Italian Restaurant in Lincoln Square.  We found ample inexpensive meter parking just across the street, and walked into a quaint and cozy little dining room.  We were then given water, which is served in pint glasses (great for holding alot of water), a carafe of water for the table, and menus.  Stemware was then presented, and it was time to open the wines!

For our Italian dinner, we both brought Super Tuscans from the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany.  Super Tuscans are great wines made in Tuscany which rebel against Italian wine classification laws.  Wines from this region are traditionally made from Sangiovese, along with a blend of other local grapes (mostly white wine grapes).  They have a history dating back about 40 years, when the head of the Antinori family created one of the first.  Piero AntinoriTignanello wanted to add Bordeaux varietals to the mix, enhancing the body, texture, flavor, and aromatics to Italy's #1 varietal.  His creation, and my wine choice for the evening, was Tignanello.  I brought the 2001 vintage (retails around $85), a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  I love this wine, as it has a great soil and barnyard aroma, mixed with ripe dark cherry, worn leather, and oak on the palate.  There was also small hints of tobacco and chocolate, which proved the complexity of the wine.  The tannins were supple and smooth, making it great with any food, especially Italian.

FlaccianelloChris brought 1997 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve (retails around $70), made from single vineyard, 100% Sangiovese.  It has been produced since 1981 by the Manetti family.  This wine is weighty and big, with larger tannins, dark cherry and plum aroma and flavor, along with some cedar and rich earth.  It is a perfect partner for meat dishes and heavy sauces.

As far as the food is concerned, the menu has tons of options: fresh salads and soups, homemade pastas, veal, chicken, beef, and fish.  We went with a couple of fresh mozzarella dishes to start, one with green beans, and the other a classic caprese.  The mozzarella seemed local, as it was harder textured than the imported soft, rich version.  The green beans were large and delicious, especially when topped with the balsalmic vinegar.  The tomatoes were thick, but a touch less than ripe.  Both a good choice to accompany the bright acidity of the wines.

For dinner, everyone chose homemade pasta (most dishes priced around $20), which is hard to resist when offered.  I went with rigatoni bolognese topped with chicken parmesan- an odd combination, but great for meat lovers.  The dish was large enough to easily feed two, and needless to say, I had leftovers.  All of the pasta was cooked al dente, and tasted fresh, with unbelievable doughy, chewy flavor.  The bolognese sauce had a tomato tang accompanying the soft, salty ground meat.  All of this combined with tender chicken and melted mozzarella was outrageous!  My wife chose the porcini ravioli with chicken, which was an earthy, creamy blend of four monster ravioli and chicken breast topped with a creamy porcini sauce, which could double as a tasty soup.  I know the Caruso's loved their food as well, because we found ourselves doing more chewing, and less talking!

We left no room for dessert, but I will be back to try the tiramisu and more fresh pasta.  I highly recommend this spot, and hope you enjoy the food and BYOB experience as much as us.  Feel free to comment about your experience!Bottigliero/Caruso BYOB at Caro Mio