20 April 2011

Cooking at Fiorentino's

Last month I had the pleasure of attending a cooking class at Fiorentino's Cucina Italiana - and it was seriously one of the best afternoons I have had in the last few months! We arrived to open seating in their heated indoor patio which had a pleasantly outdoor feel, where we were greeted with wine and yummy Tuscan bread. Before the lesson began, we started with a meal, pictured above. And everything we ate, we learned to make through the cooking demonstration following the meal. 

  1. Arrancini, stuffed rice balls battered and fried to perfection. 
  2. Sausage soup with escarole and canellini beans, a heartwarming bowl that I gladly mopped up with my bread.
  3. A citrus salad, with fennel, pomegranate seeds, tossed in a vinaigrette made from orange and grapefruit juice.
  4. Pasta putanesca, a simple sauce made from kalamata olives, anchovies, capers, artichokes, onions, garlic, and tomatoes.
  5. Chicken picatta, tenderized chicken in a thick lemon sauce with capers - (capers which I am now currently obsessed with).
  6. Risotto with pancetta and vegetables.
  7. Macerated strawberries with shaved chocolate.
  8. A neverending flow of wine, Bacchus would have been proud.

I enjoyed each and every bite of this meal. Having lived in Tuscany for four months, I grew to love Italian cuisine, but Sicilian food is something I know so little about - which is why I found this meal so special. The food had really clean simple flavors - just so that you could really taste each component in every dish. I found myself taking a bite, then writing down what I thought was in each dish, and as the cooking lesson progressed, crosschecking if my food predictions were correct! What fun! Our table had great conversation, and with every passing of the family style dishes, we grew to know one another more and more. 

By the time the demonstration began, we were stuffed, jolly, and well-acquainted with each other -  the vibe was happy, buzzing, and ready  to learn. I sincerely enjoyed the format of this lesson, having attended a variety of cooking lessons in the past. I liked that we ate everything before we learned to make it, allowing us to  be more invested in what we were learning having just enjoyed everything that was being prepared. I also find it distracting to learn anything on an empty stomach, but having just eaten a delicious and filling meal, I had a certain focus and reason to follow what I was being taught. And like any good cooking lesson, we left armed with typed copies of everything we had just eaten - so we could prepare these delicacies at home.

During the lesson, there was an open forum for people to ask questions, shout out requests, and make wonderful jokes and banter. I felt extremely comfortable amongst this group, and Frances brought such energy to the lesson that there was never a dull moment. We watched as pots were stirred, ingredients were added, and the overhead mirror fogged up with steam. Everything was extremely easy to make, and well explained by Frances. I left feeling excited and confident to enter the kitchen to test these dishes out on my own. I have since made the pasta and the soup - both of which are really easy to put to together and simple enough to improvise from on the fly. Oh, and did I mention, delicious?

If you are interested in attending an upcoming cooking class at Fiorentino's I strongly urge you to visit their website. I think my mom and I might be going to another, which will be completely different as she is working her way north up the Italian peninsula.

Buon appetito!

If you are interested in learning more, feel free to contact me or call the restaurant directly at 773.244.3026. Or you can enjoy an Italian meal yourself at Fiorentino's located at 2901 North Ashland Avenue.


  1. YUM! That all looks delicious. If possible I would love the recipe for the soup.

    quintessentiallyquirky [at] gmail [dot] com

  2. why do i read your blog when i am hungry?! i should learn by now...

    everything looks sooo good!

  3. omg, arrancini. How great are those things? I wish I had the time to learn to make them, I've heard they're a little tricky to perfect.

    That class sounds so perfect though! Almost a hands-on version of Big Night, have you seen that movie? That movie never fails to make me hungry.