The cranes and forklifts navigating construction at the corner of Southport and Henderson in Lakeview aren’t toting flooring or brick just now. Instead, they’re hoisting a massive Italian-made wood-fired oven into the basement kitchens at Coda di Volpe, the Southern Italian restaurant that Billy Lawless is opening this summer with partner Ryan O’Donnell (of Gemini Bistro and the now-closed Rustic House) and San Francisco chef import, Chris Thompson.
That Stefano Ferrara oven—a dream come true for Thompson—is the first of its make in Chicago, nice point of differentiation in the Italian restaurant market here. “These ovens have been handmade in the Naples tradition for hundreds of years,” says Thompson. “The bricks are mined in the Sorrento Peninsula to make the stone for the deck, so it’s just the most ideal oven to make a Neapolitan pizza.” Augmenting the pizza, Thompson says there will be plenty of wood-grilled seafood and leaner/lighter made-to-order pasta with Southern Italian stylings. And tapping into more than a decade of experience with the well-tuned charcuterie and salumi program he launched as chef at A16 in San Francisco, Thompson is also excited about the controlled temperature/humidity salumi curing room that he is installing.
In the works since last spring, Coda di Volpe, “tail of the fox,” was named (by Pliny the Elder, of all esoterica) for a white grape indigenous to Campagna. Yes, Lawless’ wine-man Jon McDaniel, whose list will include eighty-five percent Southern Italian wines, will have some soon-to-be-announced white grape Coda di Volpe wine program component to match the moniker. The one-level 3,000-square-foot restaurant, designed as an Italian take on mid-century modern by 555 International, will seat twenty-five at the bar and one hundred in the dining room, seven days a week, with lunch and brunch planned after the summer launch. (Monica Kass Rogers)