Northbrook Hotel Makes Pancetta Restaurant A Destination

The new restaurant at the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel offers Italian food with a side of live music.

When the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel underwent renovations over the summer, it decided its restaurant needed an update as well. So in August, it replaced Rook's Corner with Pancetta, a laid back lounge that serves Italian food and complex cocktails.

"We want to have everyone here," said restaurant manager Eve Dobbin. "We’re trying to get the neighborhood people in."

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The warm space features plush ivory chairs and candlelit glass tables. Sports games play on a pair of TVs behind the bar. Big chairs are nested around a fireplace and cozy nooks with couches are positioned around the perimeter — the nooks are especially popular among guests hanging out with laptops or books.

The bar offers plenty to try, as well. The cocktail menu features twists on classics like mojitos loaded with muddled fruit and the cucumber mule — a delightfully refreshing cocktail blended with big chunks of cucumber.

The restaurant's small stage hosts a mix of rock, country and pop music acts Tuesday through Thursday and some Fridays.

"I think it goes a long with our atmosphere here," Dobbin said. "It's a place to come in, relax, listen to some music and have dinner."

The hotel's new restaurant offers guests a seasonally changing menu, replacing the former Rook's Corner and its selection of American fare.

"We just decided to go in a new direction," said sous chef Steve Martyn. "We need something to better fit this area."

Taste Test

Patch started with the crispy eggplant, a delicious dish that resembles an appetizer-sized portion of eggplant parmesan. The sausage patties were also quite tasty, if an odd starter. Exactly what they sound like, they would be more at home on a breakfast plate and were a bit too big and rich for two people to split.

Pasta is the focus of the entrée menu, with portions so big you'll be left with leftovers. The ravioli avoids the dish's occasionally overwhelming richness with a very garlicky sauce and a topping of toasted pine nuts.

If you're looking for something a bit lighter, order up the crab florentine, which adds the freshness of tomatoes and spinach to the generous portion of seafood served over linguine and spiced up with crushed red pepper.

If you're not a pasta fan, their wood plank salmon might do the trick. The fish was perfectly cooked and piled with crab meat that would please any seafood lover.

If you can save room for dessert, the restaurant offers Homer's ice cream and tiramisu from Eli's Cheesecake, served by the slice and drizzled with caramel sauce for a decadent finisher.

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