With the latest Moretti’s scheduled to open in downtown Barrington this autumn, we thought it would be the perfect time to head down the road to the Hoffman Estates location to see what was coming our way.
The first thing we noticed is how adaptable the space is. The décor has a rustic charm with reclaimed barn beams and natural stonework setting a great dinner date or dinner-with-friends tone. A tremendous assortment of Italian-themed bric-a-brac covers the walls and beams giving the impression of an heirloom collection assembled over a long time. An incredible number of flat-screen TVs broadcast sports of all kinds around the large bar and over all of the walls.
There are two private event areas, one with its own bar, that also serve as overflow seating on busy nights. We’re almost at the time of year where the wrap around patios open back up to evening fire pits, an open-air bar, and even more mounted televisions.
There’s a separate entrance dedicated solely to carryout orders from their extensive and reasonably priced, family friendly menu.
We took quite a tour of that menu, starting with three exceptional appetizers from the Antipasti section.
The Coconut Onion rings are thick enough to engage with a knife and fork. They’re also popular enough to warrant a practical uprising when they had a brief respite from the regular menu. The shredded coconut in the thick, fried batter lends an almost cake-like sweetness to the onion that we’d never before experienced. When dipped in the accompanying sweet chili sauce it would make as fine a dessert as it does an appetizer.
The Grilled Calamari makes for a more traditionally Italian start to a meal. Marinated calamari is char grilled for a smoky flavor with citrus tinges and a texture you can really sink your teeth into. They’re paired with a mini arugula salad with bruschetta tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette.
For a more unique Italian appetizer, the Prosciutto Di Parma is a salad of lemon-sprinkled arugula and shaved red onions with Parmesan cheese shavings. Then, fresh mozzarella, ripe Roma tomatoes, and fresh basil are wrapped in prosciutto, lightly breaded, and seared. They’re essentially delicious, grown-up versions of mozzarella sticks. But on a salad, so it’s healthy.
Let’s get into the headliner at Moretti’s: the pizza. Fast-fired in a Middleby Marshall Wow! conveyor oven, these beauties come out of the kitchen in about half the time it takes at some other pizzerias. They have a Moretti’s specialty blend of five aged cheeses sourced from Greco and Sons in Bartlett, Illinois.
We first sampled a thin crust version of the House Favorite: Italian sausage, green pepper, pepperoni, and onion. The crust is cracker thin and works as a perfect delivery device for highlighting the quality meat and cheese. The rapid cooking leaves a lovely crunch in the vegetables. The half-inch of crust at the edge finishes the perimeter slices with the perfect buttery finish.
The deep dish has recently undergone a redesign with particular attention paid to the crust. Classic Chicago style, this slice emphasizes the tartness of the tomato sauce, which is the top layer, against a heavy, buttery bread at the base. Each slice ends in a practical breadstick with the crust, which has a flaky pastry exterior that gives way to a soft, fresh-baked-bread interior. This is a substantial slice, tasty and filling.
Pizza is the bedrock on which Moretti’s was built. The kids menu even has a fun “Make your own pizza” option where kids spread the sauce and cheese over the dough of their own mini-pizza. They also sweeten the deal with half-priced pizzas every Tuesday after 4pm.
At the other end of the dinner spectrum, we tried the Mediterranean Sea Bass off of the evening’s specials. The fish was cooked to perfection, flaky and fresh, roasted with Mediterranean relish for hints of garlic and olives. Prepared with olive oil and lemon butter and served over a bed of black rice, this is a fabulous balance of flavors and textures. A side of grilled asparagus adds a welcome tang of smoke to the plate.
The final entrée we need to talk about is once again firmly encamped in rich Italian flavors. The Penne Chicken Asiago is the pasta entrée to beat, a reported personal favorite of owner Mark Hoffman and his wife Jessica. It consists of al dente penne pasta soaked in an incredible roasted garlic Asiago cream sauce. Mushrooms, spinach, Roma tomatoes, peas, caramelized onions, crispy fried prosciutto, and tender shreds of chicken are chopped up and thrown into the mix. Every bite is wonderful.
For dessert, we had the Caramel Apple Strudel: fresh Fuji apples piled high and baked in a flaky pastry crust that looks more like an mini apple pie cup than a traditional strudel. The entire plate is covered in a generous drizzle of caramel sauce that’s combines beautifully with the warm cinnamon apple concoction inside, while a scoop of vanilla bean gelato melts temptingly over everything.
Moretti’s currently has seven locations, including 2475 W. Higgins Road in Hoffman Estates, 847-885-0400, with a new location currently underway in Barrington, morettischicago.com