Longtime industry friends and newly forged business partners Nancy Silver (Blackbird, Firefly, Charlie Trotter’s) and Chris Pappas (The Winchester, Sepia, Mia Francesca, Soul Kitchen, Red Light, Old Town Social) announced the name of their highly anticipated new project, Americano 2211, a boutique restaurant and bar opening in the former Birchwood Kitchen space of 2211 W. North Avenue in Wicker Park, Chicago. The forthcoming European inspired eatery will boast an all-day menu spearheaded by newly appointed Executive Chef Fred Noinaj (avec, Analogue, and The Hey-Ha Truck) and is slated to open early April 2016.
A native of Chicago’s Albany Park, Chef Noinaj traces his earliest culinary focus to age 3, when his parents opened one of the first Thai restaurants in Wrigleyville during the early 1990s. Growing up in the family restaurant, he learned the ropes of food prep, fryer operation, and wok cooking—after finishing his homework. He continued working in Thai restaurant kitchens through high school, before aiming for the culinary ladder’s top rung at age 19 when he staged at Alinea fresh off its three Michelin stars. Noinaj jumped to The Violet Hour (2015 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Bar Program) and its abbreviated kitchen, where he met current Americano 2211 partner Nancy Silver, who was running the bar’s dessert program at the time. Joining avec (2005 James Beard: Outstanding Restaurant Design), Noinaj spent a year working as a line cook under Chef de Cuisine Koren Grieveson (2010 James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes) whom he credits with teaching him how to properly cook simple food with strong flavors enhanced by fire in avec’s three-person open kitchen. His promotion as avec’s Junior Sous Chef allowed him to continue cooking under Chef Erling Wu-Bower (Nico Osteria, 2015 James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes Nominee) and then with Chef de Cuisine Perry Hendrix (avec, Blackbird). Noinaj then landed at Logan Square’s Analogue where he connected with Duncan Biddulph, The Winchester’s current executive chef, who made Noinaj’s introduction to 2211 partner and The Winchester owner Chris Pappas. After a foray into Thai street food in Austin, Texas, Noinaj returns to Chicago where he’s poised to apply his experience alongside award-winning chefs and culinary influence from mentors Biddulph and Silver. At the barely seasoned age of 26, Noinaj will embark on his first full menu design as executive chef to Americano 2211’s Mediterranean-inspired cuisine in Wicker Park.
“Growing up working in a Thai kitchen I’ve been most influenced by bold, herbaceous flavors that translate really well into this type of cuisine,” Noinaj says. “I couldn't be more excited to craft menus for both daytime and evening service."
The all-day menu will feature an array of light, ingredient-driven dishes intended for sharing. For breakfast, simple offerings of locally sourced eggs and cured breakfast meats will remain signature menu staples, along with seasonal options like a Porcini Vegetable Tart, prepared with peak season Porcini mushrooms, nestled atop a hand formed flaky pastry bed. Lunch and evening dishes will showcase Mediterranean influenced small plates such as grain salads, tabouli, and Shakshuka, a Tunisian inspired spiced tomato sauce dish simmered with poached eggs. True to its name, Americano 2211 will host an extensive coffee and tea program, with hand crafted espresso beverages and a soon-to-be-announced local coffee partner, as well as an evening bar and wine/aperitif program to come. Silver's wildly acclaimed hand made pastries will take center stage. Adorning the marble slab pastry counter will be an assortment of rotating sweet and savory pastries including rosemary-sea salt biscuits, pistachio financiers, and cinnamon and hickory nut brioche. And for a foolproof finish, a selection of delicate desserts, including Snookelfritz ice creams will be offered to end the evening on just the right note.
With Noinaj onboard, Americano 2211 will bring a contemporary communal dining refuge, where locals and strangers alike can share bites and stories in a charming setting that’s tucked away in the neighborhoods of Chicago.
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