Mirabella Italian Cuisine - Chicago
Chef/owner Arturo Aucaquizhpi opened the restaurant in late 2016 after leaving Gene & Georgetti, the classic Chicago steakhouse near the Loop. The folks at Gene and Georgetti supported his decision and managing partner, Michelle Durpetti, explained:
"Here at Gene & Georgetti and in the spirit of founder Gene Michelotti’s pursuit of the American Dream, we cultivate the essence of entrepreneurship and are proud when our employees seek to pursue their dreams. Arturo came to us asking for our blessing with his new venture and we are proud to stand by him and his decision."
With that endorsement from one of the classic Chicago steak houses, Aucaquizhpi has gone forth to make a name for himself at Mirabella Italian Cuisine & Bar. As Mike Sula in the Chicago Reader has noted, he’s brought the best of Gene and Georgetti with him:
“Aucaquizhpi credits Mario Navarro, his predecessor at Gene & Georgetti, with teaching him everything he knows. A quick look at his menu reveals it's been a faithful study. Nearly everything you could possibly order at G&G is on the menu at Mirabella, at significantly lower prices. Boost your lipids with the bacon with blue cheese dip or its ostensibly healthier alternative, a wedge salad tottering under a blue cheese avalanche, itself carpeted with crushed bacon. The signature Mirabella salad is a dead ringer for G&G's garbage salad: a pile of antipasto, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, and olives. Fried ravioli, pizza bread, baked clams, sausage and peppers—it's all there, with no concession given to the culinary currents of the day.”
The Italian influence at Mirabella Italian Cuisine & Bar is immediately obvious in the appetizer menu. There’s calamari, grilled or fried, sausage and peppers, and pizza bread, which is not an appetizer you’ll likely find at many other steak houses in Chicago.
The soups and salads are also, predictably, Italianate: minestrone, Italian Caprese salad and Caesar salad (okay, okay, that last one is actually a culinary invention of Tijuana, Mexico – no kidding! – but it came from the mind of an Italian, Caesar Cardini).
Unusual among Chicago steak houses, Mirabella Italian Cuisine & Bar offers a very large selection of chicken dishes, including chicken Marsala, chicken piccata, chicken Parmesan and – take note of this one – chicken Vesuvio, a true Chicago original. Chicken Vesuvio is an Italian-American creation consisting of bone-in chicken with potato wedges, carrots, celery and frequently peas, all sautéed with white wine, oregano and garlic, and then baked together until the skin of the chicken becomes crisp and crackly. Though the precise origins of this dish are uncertain, many believe it to have originated at the Vesuvio Restaurant (15 E. Wacker) in the 1930s.
Though eschewing the fancier fish available at many steak houses in town, Mirabella comes though with standard pleasers like white fish Greek style and shrimp scampi, but also some unexpected specialties like white fish a la Venesiano and salmon Vesuvio (a creative take on Chicago’s original and previously mentioned chicken Vesuvio).
As this is an unabashedly Italian take on the classic Chicago steakhouse, you can expect a lot of pasta…and you get it. Fettucine primavera, linguini with clams in white or red sauce, spaghetti Bolognese or diavolo, cheese ravioli and four cheese tortellini, more pastas, in other words, than you might find at many straight-up Italian restaurants.
And then…the meat.
Veal comes in the familiar forms; escalope, marsala, piccata, lemone, Parmesan and breaded.
Steak reflects the skills Aucaquizhpi acquired during his years at Piccolo Sogno and Gene & Georgetti’s, craftsman-like renditions of the classics.
Broiling is the name of the game at Mirabella Italian Cuisine & Bar, and if you like food broiled, you here have your choice of a huge range of options: bone-in ribeye, New York strip, filet mignon, filet Oscar, steak Vesuvio (clearly a house favorite type of presentation), skirt steak, pork chop, veal chop and lamb chop. Broiling is a good way to get grill-like results in a large, commercial kitchen, and Aucaquizhpi uses that time-honored technique to great advantage.
Though the dining room is lit low and shows the simple elegance of white tablecloths, there’s a certain home-style vibe to Mirabella Italian Cuisine & Bar that you’d have a hard time finding at other Chicago temples to red meat. The prices are somewhat more modest, too, and at Mirabella Italian Cuisine & Bar, you can enjoy some classic apps, a very good bowl of pasta, and a well-prepared steak, with wine, for less price and just as much enjoyment as you could expect at many downtown steak joints