I got first dibs on seeing the new Balena restaurant tonight at the CS grand opening party (thanks, Ari!). First impressions… it is a gorgeous space. Housed in the former Landmark location, Balena, the latest brainchild of restaurant duo Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm of BOKA Restaurant Group, makes use of the two-story space by setting tables on both levels and stationing its kitchen (and pizza production) upstairs where part of Landmark’s second floor used to be.
The whole place is a stylish take on rustic, and the food has a similar taste and feel. Given the passed hors d’oeuvres and charcuterie station, it’s a little bit hard to know what the actual food experience will be like, but the menu, currently published on the restaurant’s new website offers some hints. A strong Italian/Mediterranean influence will feature pizzas and pastas, with starters and oven-fired entrees having a seafood and pork focus (think: tuna crostini, anchovy spread, pancetta and whole roasted fish).
The food is good, but probably I will go back for the atmosphere. (Oh, and dessert—ricotta donut? Yes, please.) This is the kind of casual-yet-upscale place that will be good for a date or a group and the location is ideal for Lincoln Parkers in its central spot on Halsted. I’m interested to go back for the pastas and sharing plates of meats, cheeses, and breads—all very family-style Italiano.
1633 N. Halsted / Lincoln Park / Chicago