Babysitter, check. Reservations, Check. Available friends, check. Time for a night out in the city.
We had attempted to make it down to Bar Siena, in Chicago’s West Loop, a couple months ago, but when you have kids (especially kids in daycare), there’s a good chance they are going to get sick when you have something fun you want to do. And that’s exactly what happened. The day before we were originally supposed to go to Bar Siena with our friends, our daughter came home from daycare with a fever, which only grew worse the next day, so we were forced to cancel our dinner plans and stay home with a sick kid.
It was a big bummer since we already had a babysitter lined up and we were ready to get out of the house for some adult fun, but instead we spent the entire weekend on the couch watching the Trolls movie on repeat.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the Trolls movie, but after the 5th time it starts to lose its appeal… and by the 20th time you wish the Bergens would eat all the Trolls just to just put you out of your misery. Unfortunately when you have a sick kid you gotta take one for the team and keep them as comfortable as possible, and in our case that meant watching Trolls over and over.
Thankfully, a few weeks later, we were finally able to reschedule our plans and head down to the West Loop to enjoy some dinner and drinks with friends.
Low FODMAP and Eating Out
It’s been like 10-12 weeks (I lost count), since I started the low FODMAP diet in order to figure out what was causing my IBS issues to flair up, so it’s been a while since we’ve gone out to eat somewhere that had obvious menu items that would work for me. The elimination portion of the diet ended at about 6 weeks, so I’ve been slowly adding new things into my diet to try to figure out what causes the issues, but even after a few weeks of re-adding things, it’s not 100% clear on what the issue is. At first I thought it was tomatoes, then maybe just raw tomatoes, and then onions, and maybe garlic…. and dairy was making me gassy… so I was clearly doing the “re-adding” portion of this thing wrong. I’m still convinced that raw tomatoes are an issue, and to some degree cooked tomatoes, and then for sure garlic, but onions I’m still not sure of, and I don’t think it’s dairy (although it makes me gassy). The one thing I’m sure of is that it’s not wheat, so I’ve gone back to eating regular sandwiches instead of gluten free turkey wraps for lunch every day. But either way, after looking at the menu at Bar Siena, I wasn’t really sure what I would be able to eat.
Bar Siena has a heavy Italian influence, so there are lots of meats and cheeses, and pizzas, and meatballs and pastas, and things of that nature. I was pretty convinced that almost everything on the menu was going to have onions and garlic in it, so I was a bit unsure as to what I might be able to eat… but I figured it out.
Ribs, Pizza, Octopus and Donuts
Once we got to the restaurant and started drinking and talking, I decided that I felt pretty good going into the night, so I was going to be a little more risky than I have been since the start of this whole diet. I haven’t eaten pizza since probably before Christmas, but decided that as long as they were extremely light on the sauce, I would be able to handle it. Plus the pizza I wanted was loaded with different meats, so I didn’t think that going light on the sauce would even be noticeable. I will say however, that I really wanted to get the Meatball & Mozzarella calzone, but figured that the marinara sauce inside the calzone would probably have garlic and onions in it… not to mention tomatoes, so that was definitely a no go.
I ended up ordering the Carne pizza, which consisted of Italian sausage, pancetta cured bacon, prosciutto cotto, sopresatta, roasted tomato sauce (extremely light), and housemade mozzarella. This entire pizza reminded me of our trip to Italy and how I ate raw tomatoes pretty much every day we were there, and had little to no stomach issues, which got me thinking that maybe tomatoes aren’t the issue. But still, I wasn’t about to test that theory while we were out to dinner in the city.
The pizza itself was pretty good, not the greatest, but it was really nice to have pizza again. I probably would have liked it a bit better if I were able to get the normal amount of sauce and was able to figure out which of the meats was a bit spicier than I like, and had them leave that one off. But that’s just my personal preference. The pizza was still very good despite the slight spiciness (and lack of sauce). My only complaint is that when we got home, with half the pizza in a to-go container, we left it in the damn car! We found it the next day when we went to go pick up our daughter at her Grandparents house… so sad as I would have loved to have eaten it for lunch the next day.
In terms of everyone else’s entrees, I honestly don’t remember what my wife got, and the other couple with us both got the butternut squash risotto, which they really seemed to enjoy, though I still think the entrees were overshadowed by the appetizers… and one in particular.
Before our main dishes came out, we ordered three appetizers: the burrata with spicy apricot mostarda, candied pistachio, sea salt, and grilled polenta bread, then the Grilled Octopus & shishito peppers with charred escarole, calabrian chili vinaigrette, and finally the balsamic glazed pork ribs with crispy brussels sprout leaves, and sea salt.
Can you guess which one was outstanding?
I’m sure if you asked everyone else at the table, they would say everything was great, but the balsamic glazed pork ribs were absolutely incredible. I don’t like food (which is the whole point of this site), but these ribs were probably one of the best foods I’ve ever had. And I’m also pretty sure it’s what caused me to have a flair up the next day, but it was so worth it (I’m guessing there was garlic in it).
These ribs were so flavorful and cooked perfectly that I wanted to just order another plate of them as my entree instead of the pizza. I’m kind of glad I didn’t in the end, but you can bet your ass if we ever go back to Bar Siena I will be getting them again, no matter what they might do to my insides the next day.
In terms of the other appetizers, I honestly didn’t try them. I just kept hovering over the ribs hoping that everyone else would fill up on the other dishes and I would be able to snag a couple more for myself before the entrees came. Ugh, they were so fucking good…
You want to know what else is pretty good? The donut dessert.
For dessert you can choose from a handful of different flavored bombolinis (an Italian hole-less doughnut). The doughnuts come out completely plain, each with a squeeze bottle filled with the different toppings. We opted for salted caramel, nutella cream, and peanut butter fudge. I can tell you hands down that the salted caramel was the favorite at our table. The others were still solid, but the other two just didn’t live up to the hype. If we went back I would probably get the salted caramel again, but choose two different ones than the ones we got this night.
If doughnuts aren’t your thing, they also offer gelato that they make from scratch. We almost got gelato as well, but everyone was pretty much stuffed after we finished the doughnuts.
Bar Siena hit all the right notes with us, in terms of food, and the atmosphere was great as well. The service could have been slightly better, but it was a Saturday night and they were pretty crowded. The waitress did forget our last round of drinks by the bar for about 20 minutes or so, but was super apologetic when we asked her nicely about them, and even bought us our doughnut desserts as an apology. We actually weren’t too concerned that the drinks took so long, since we weren’t in any hurry, but it was awfully nice of her to cover the dessert for us. And for that fact, we’ll definitely check it out again if we’re in the neighborhood.