Neoteca is very sleek. As soon as we came through the door, we settled into the dark, modern tones resonating throughout the room. The tables are made of dark wood and surrounded by black chairs. The walls are slate gray, the floor is polished concrete, the chandeliers twisted and cool, large scale art hangs on the walls depicting cobbled Italian streets in stark tones, and the far corner is a comfortable lounge of gray chesterfield sofas. The bar is impressive and backed by a contemporary floor-to-ceiling wall of wine riding steel rails behind glass. The effect is very urban, very modern, and evokes a wonderful evening energy.
At the table, in addition to the menus and drinks list was a single sheet of the paper and a small library pencil for ordering from their signature Salumi Bar, a list of 11 meats and nine cheeses from which you design your own charcuterie board. They come in a small salumeria platter of four items, a medium platter of six, or a large platter of eight.
For our board, we tried the Prosciutto Di Parma, aged 400 days and imported from Parma, Italy, impossibly delicate and delicious; dark slices of Bresaola, cured beef imported from Uraguay and topped with a few arugula leaves and Parmesan shavings that teased out savory qualities; and the Molisana Salame, a perfect, sliced salami that paired beautifully with Castelvetrano olives imported from Sicily.
For the cheese selection, we tried the Fontal, a robust fontina cheese from Italy that stood up to the flavorful meats and slices of Italian bread. Our favorite cheese, though, was the Prairie Breeze White Cheddar from Milton, Iowa. It was presented as crumbles, made with vegetarian rennet and aged nine months to dissolve in your mouth with lovely elements of crystallization.
Moving from one “bar” to the next, we continued to capitalize on Neoteca’s flare for bite-sized shareables with the Bruschetta Bar, selecting three options from the menu of six hot bruschettas and eight cold bruschettas. The most traditional of the three we tried was the Burrata Bacon bruschetta, combining the intense creaminess of burrata cheese against the salty crunch of bacon crumbles with the bite of arugula and brightness of petite tomatos. The Shrimp bruschetta leaned heavily into a smoky grilled shrimp seasoned with pesto complemented by roasted peppers and Parmesan cheese. The Portobello Mushroom bruschetta relies on the wonderful meatiness of the mushroom topped with a drizzle of garlic aioli and arugula. The flavors are fantastic opposite their method for preparing the crostini base of every bruschetta, perfectly toasted and infused with a lot of olive oil and garlic flavor. Grazing from the bruschetta bar tapas-style with a glass of wine is all it would take to have a perfect night at Neoteca.
Of course, we couldn’t visit Neoteca without trying one of their signature Neapolitan pizzas. We went for the classic Margherita, and, the way that Neoteca approaches it, classic is the word. The crust is perfect—super thin, except for the rise at the rim courtesy of flour imported from Italy, with just a touch of wood-fire blackening from the 800-degree pizza oven smoldering in the back. A thin layer of tomato sauce is made from imported hand-crushed tomatoes. Pads of melted mozzarella and whole basil leafs decorate the top and accent the flavor of extra virgin olive oil. Before we knew it, we’d practically finished the whole thing.
Despite a multitude of very authentic Italian desserts gracing the Dolci menu, it was suggested we go for the Fresh Cookie Delight. Direct from the oven comes a large chocolate chip cookie coating the bottom of a scalding hot cast iron skillet. This is the height of gooey chocolate chip decadence at the center and skillet-crisp at the edges. Topped with a scoop of rapidly melting vanilla gelato, this is comfort food at it’s finest.
Neoteca is located at 130 S. Hough Street in Barrington, 847-382-1330, neotecainc.com.