Pancetta aims to please a local crowd
Eve Dobbins, Pancetta restaurant manager, Chris Dugenske, food and beverage director and executive chef and Steve Martyn, sous chef. | Lee A. Litas~Sun-Times Media
Pancetta Regional Kitchen + Bar
Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel, 933 Skokie Valley Road, Northbrook
Breakfast: 6 a.m.-11 a.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Saturday-Sunday. Lunch: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Sunday; Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Sunday
Updated: November 23, 2012 7:10AM
“We’re starting from scratch.”
Chris Dugenske, food/beverage director and executive chef explained that inside the Renaissance Chicago North Shore hotel in Northbrook this summer, he and his colleagues were launching a brand new restaurant in the space that was formerly Rook’s Corner.
Now, as Pancetta Regional Kitchen + Bar, the new concept has taken its place alongside the hotel’s other dining establishments.
“It must be stand-alone and it’s difficult when you’re in a hotel and you don’t have a reputation (yet),” said Dugenske.
Pancetta’s goal is to appeal more in the comfort-food niche with a menu that boasts sandwiches, pastas, appetizers and soups in prices ranging from $5 appetizers and $9 sandwiches, to $21 tenderloins.
“Our hope is that we will be a cost-effective option,” said Dugenske, emphasizing that the restaurant is not just for hotel guests.“Our goal is to have a lot more locals involved.”
The hotel has redesigned Pancetta’s interior adding muted tones, cozy booths filled with designer pillows, and crystal chandeliers. And they’ve put a lot of thought into their lounge.
“The lounge is where we’ve really identified ourselves as stand-alone,” said Dugenske.
Monday through Wednesday, 6-10 p.m., all non-traditional date nights to be sure, Pancetta has added live music with a flexible ‘last call.’
“You don’t have to twist the musician’s arm to stay longer,” said Dugenske.
Thursday through Saturday have been deemed “audition days,” when local artists are encouraged to come out and woo the crowds with their music. If they pass muster, they’ll be given a permanent gig.
“Instead of sitting at home, come out and listen to the music for a couple of hours and just relax and enjoy your evening,” offers Dugenske.
The spot, he added, is trying to bring ‘that downtown feel to the suburbs.’
Feeding their guests well, is of course, crucial.
During lunch Pancetta is serving soups, salads and pizza. Dinners include more robust appetizers and entrees. The lounge boasts yet another menu, with items specifically designed to be sharable.
Notable is Pancetta’s shrimp scampi appetizer, which doesn’t go the traditional breaded-deep-fried route. It is served with a healthy dose of garlic ($8) and grilled baguette for dipping ($8).
Crushed red pepper adds heat to the Crab Florentine which is topped with jumbo lump crab meat and finished with a bit of spinach and grated Asiago cheese ($15).
Pancetta goes the extra mile with their plank salmon, baking it atop a real plank of cherry wood to ensure full flavor for the filet. Topped with jumbo lump crab meat, it’s hearty and light all at once and all the more healthy thanks to fat, green asparagus stalks ($16).
“What is unique to us is our look, our feel, our lounge. Come try us. Once you do I think you’re going to really find that it’s the place you want to hang out,” said Dugenske.