LAKE BLUFF — During his five-year hiatus as the chef at Grille No. 43 in Lake Bluff, Paul Caravelli worked at restaurants in Chicago, Sacramento and San Diego as well as reaching the semifinals of ABC-TV’s The Taste competitive cooking show.
Starting as the Grille’s first chef in 2010, Caravelli, a Lake Bluff resident, left two years later to broaden his experience, but he remained in touch with restaurant owner Ted Boufis.
Now Caravelli is back at Grille 43 as its chef, renewing his association with Boufis and remaking the menu at the Lake Bluff eatery with the flair he has acquired with new American casual dining.
“Ted and I remained close,” said Caravelli. “I’m looking forward to reworking the Grille menu and working with Ted again on future projects.”
When Caravelli walked back into his old kitchen he found a restaurant serving mostly the same food customers ordered when he left in 2012. That is no longer the case, with a series of small plates, mains, soups, salads and sides.
“The menu was stale, very stale,” said Caravelli. “If you’re not growing you’re dead. We remade it with 2017 offerings instead of the 2009 offerings. We’re bringing Chicago to Lake Bluff with the quality of food and service.”
One of the small plates or appetizers Caravelli has added to the menu is avocado toast. It is sourdough toast with pine nut butter topped with herbs and an avocado spread. He adds lemon and pink ginger for a “really, really great flavor.”
“You break the egg yolks with the toast and you go straight to yum country,” said Caravelli.
Caravelli said he is also proud of his Second Place Chicken Wings named that because they earned the runner-up distinction in a contest at the University of Illinois Chicago in 2003. Adding some sauce to blue cheese it is served with the signature Steakhouse Blue Cheese.
“When you make something this different you have to name it,” said Caravelli referring to the Steakhouse Blue Cheese.
If diners are partial to Jack Daniels whiskey and meatballs, they can order an appetizer of bacon bourbon meatballs. They have a bacon sauce and are “soaked in Jack Daniels,” according to Caravelli.
One of Grille No. 43’s new main menu items is pear and pecorino ravioli made with vegetarians in mind, according to Caravelli.
“It’s out of this world,” said Caravelli. “I don’t want people to feel punished because they are vegetarians.”
For those who want a burger, Caravelli has created a twist with his “Cheese Skirt” Burger. It is a hamburger with a skirt of cheddar cheese extending three inches outside the meat but attached to it.
“I wanted to make something totally unique,” said Caravelli. “The only question is whether you fold the cheese skirt under the burger or eat it like a cake. I want to start a discussion about that.”
Another main course is the Bavette steak and tots, which features a cut of sirloin meat that tastes like a strip, according to Caravelli. He calls it “‘Lil Korean” because of its slightly sweet and sour Korean barbeque flavor.
Caravelli also offers his own take on fish and chips using the traditional English haddock but calling it “Crispy Fish and Sticky Chips.” The fish is beer battered while the chips are fried with balsamic reduction with Parmesan cheese to make them a “little sticky.”
Since Caravelli returned, restaurant manager Anthony Nunnery said the crowds have noticeably increased.
“We can only assume it is because of him,” Nunnery said of Caravelli.
Grille No. 43 is located at 28800 Waukegan Road in Lake Bluff (847-2334-7643). It is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 4 to 10 p.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.