The best thing about brunch is that it can be whatever you want it to be: whatever you need on a Sunday afternoon to take a quick break and relax before launching into another busy week. Bustling and trendy destinations, eggs, and bottomless mimosas tend to get all of the attention at brunch. At Acanto, the Sunday vibe is a welcome break from that scene and pace. It’s elegant, laid back, and the perfect venue to split a bottle of wine, indulge in Italian classics, and watch the bustling world go by on Michigan Avenue for a couple of hours.
The restaurant invited us in for a complimentary brunch in their small and ornate wine bar. The space is warm and welcoming with robust red walls, a coffered ceiling, and about twenty tables. The up-lit bar is backed with dozens of bottles of imported wine, and upbeat Italian music underscores the afternoon.
The sommelier greeted us and shared what quickly became our brunch highlight – half-price bottles of wine. He recommended the Ferdi 2015 Sartori di Verona, a sweet and fruit-forward northern Italian wine with notes of florals, pears, and apricots. Most of the clientele around us were couples who were also enjoying the award-winning wine list by the bottle.
Acanto’s brunch menu offers breakfast items including trout lox, baked egg, and a fresh strawberry granola. However, their menu is heavier on classic Italian lunch items. The sommelier advised that our wine selection would pair well with several of the breakfast items – especially the frittata – but we opted for a more traditional pairing: an insalata mista, bucatini, and margherita pizza. The restaurant is known for its traditional Italian dishes. When in Rome!
The salad was surprisingly delightful, light, and balanced. The mixed greens were complemented with just enough truffle vinaigrette and parmesan to add interest without being overpowering.
The bucatini noodles were thick, hearty, and a la dente. They were paired with three veal meatballs that were moist and evenly cooked throughout with hints of oregano. The dish was topped with roasted San Marzano sauce and a heaping pile of Grana Padano and basil leaves. It was exceptionally tasty!
The first thing we noticed about the pizza was that the sauce was incredibly flavorful. The crust was chewy and doughy, with tomato, garlic, basil, and mozzarella di bufala. All of the dishes and wine complemented each other nicely.
The desserts were perhaps the most picture-perfect part of the brunch. We had a strong cup of coffee in a big saucer paired with a plate of cookies. The assortment had one of everything; a tiny éclair, a macaroon, a biscotti, a coconut cookie, a brownie, and some toffee candies. Needless to say, we left very full and happy!
Overall, we loved this leisurely-paced, authentic Italian brunch experience. We left feeling relaxed, like we had taken a mini-vacation! We were fans of Gage Hospitality’s sister restaurants (The Gage, Coda di Volpe, Beacon Tavern, and The Dawson), but Acanto is our favorite of all.
The Bitches say: five Champagne flutes. This Michigan Avenue award-winning wine bar is the perfect spot for half-price bottles, authentic Italian, and a leisurely meal.
Acanto serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.