Press Release | Fri May 03, 2019, 04:58 PM EST
"We’re adapting these great dishes to the local, seasonal ingredients we find here in the Midwest." - Chef/Owner Marisa Paolillo of Mango Pickle, a Modern Indian restaurant in Chicago
Mango Pickle in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood (5842 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60660; 773-944-5555; https://mangopicklechicago.com), is just far enough away from Chicago’s Indian restaurant row on Devon Street to hint at the fact that this isn’t a typical Indian eatery. “We chose Edgewater because it’s an eclectic, urban and sophisticated neighborhood,” said chef/owner Marisa Paolillo. “Globalization is becoming a part of the culinary scene for all food traditions and this is what we’re doing with Indian cuisine at Mango Pickle.”
It’s clear that the culinary community has embraced this colorful and casual independent restaurant: Michelin has awarded Mango Pickle a Bib Gourmand designation in each of its two years, and a growing and fiercely loyal following of food aficionados love what Paolillo and her team are doing.
“While we’re not your typical Indian restaurant, we’re still deeply embracing traditional Indian recipes and culinary tradition,” she said. “The big difference is that we’re adapting these great dishes to the local, seasonal ingredients we find here in the Midwest. We’re doing what cooks do in India—using local ingredients at the peak of their seasonal freshness. The good news is that our local ingredients provide wonderful flavors and textures and they are a great platform for the exquisite Indian spices.”
As much as Mango Pickle pays homage to Indian tradition, Paolillo admits that in some ways Mango Pickle is turning Indian cuisine “on its head.” The rich aroma of traditional Indian spices permeates her restaurant, but she offers diners a pleasurable and rewarding surprise—her dishes rise above typical Indian fare. The menu changes often to reflect the current seasonal bounty. Paolillo keeps a few signature dishes on the menu, such as the Leg of Lamb and the Butter Chicken, that are crowd favorites.
Paolillo is proud of Mango Pickle reaching its two-year mark but rather than resting on her laurels, she is delving even more creatively into the essence of Modern Indian cuisine. “We’ve been an excellent team for two years now and we’re really excited to continue defining and refining the concept of Modern Indian so more people will discover its countless joys.” The restaurant will soon introduce a new prix fixe menu offering an enhanced experience and showcasing Marisa’s creativity. Customers will be able to enjoy a variety of specials not normally found on the menu.
Adding even more momentum is the restaurant’s formal association with Indian chef Gregory Bazire. He is a French native who’s been residing and working in India since 2005. The two chefs met during a month-long catering project in 2012 at a yoga retreat in Goa, India. Bazire has been an informal advisor to Paolillo since the restaurant opened, but as their collegial relationship has grown stronger, Bazire has decided to take a more intensive role in Mango Pickle as Creative Partner.
The Mango Pickle story is intriguing. Paolillo has an Italian heritage and her grandparents and parents were in the Italian restaurant business. Her life’s journey took a new path when she met her husband-to-be, Nakul Patel, while both were in college. When Patel’s career brought the couple to Mumbai, India, Paolillo made a career change and left her corporate marketing career to follow her passion for cooking. Landing a job in an upscale American restaurant in Mumbai, she enhanced her culinary skills while being inspired by the “family meals” prepared by her Indian co-workers. “Their Indian food was simply yet elegantly prepared and had a depth of flavor and texture that was intoxicating to me,” she said. “I was struck by the similar way in which Indian and Italian people approach food. In both traditions, it is so important to prepare delicious food and share it with family. I could relate to it and I loved the flavors—in short, I was hooked.”
Family get-togethers with her in-laws gave her the opportunity to learn the special cooking techniques and tricks of Indian cuisine, and she became adept at using the exotic spices that, coupled with her creative instincts, enabled her to define her unique Indian culinary style. Her mother-in-law shared her most precious family recipes with Paolillo and these, as interpreted by the chef, form the core of the menu at Mango Pickle.
When the couple returned to Chicago in 2013, Paolillo continued to work in the restaurant business while she prepared her plan to open her own restaurant. In 2016 everything came together, and Mango Pickle opened to great reviews, filling a unique culinary niche in the neighborhood and becoming a new in-demand dining destination for Chicago’s foodies.
Colorful, warm, inviting, atypical—and delicious
Paolillo stresses that Indian food shouldn’t be stereotyped—there are many regional cuisines in India. Having been based in Mumbai, a vibrant and sophisticated melting pot, she absorbed the city’s diverse culinary influences, with emphasis on the cuisine of India’s western coast and the central regions. Diners will notice the sweet and sour elements of her food, reflecting the use of seafood and ingredients like coconut, which are common in these areas of India.
Everything about the Mango Pickle experience exudes the warmth and casual hospitality that inspires Paolillo to continue to excel as a restaurateur. The dining room is colorful and festive, combining contemporary design elements with traditional Indian accoutrement. The waitstaff is welcoming and friendly, eager to please. Mango Pickle is not unlike a restaurant one might encounter in modern Mumbai. In addition to the great aromas of the food, the full bar is the source of some tempting Indian-inspired cocktails and the wine selection is equal to the high quality of the food.
A sampling of the ever-changing menu is a captivating adventure. Many of the dishes are aromatic and vegetarian, typical of Indian cuisine, but the meat and seafood dishes are just as delicious and multi-dimensional. The current menu incorporates local ingredients that are common in early spring. One of them is called Three-Way Potato. Paolillo takes three different kinds of potatoes grown by local farms and cooks them three different ways, each an interpretation of a distinct regional style. Inspired by southern India, she cooks Rose Finn fingerling potatoes in kurma, a medley of tomato, coconut, yogurt and spices. She then takes purple fingerlings and stir-fries them to make a Gujarati Sukhi Bhaji (a dry western Indian potato dish). Finally, she takes Japanese sweet potatoes, and creates a northern Indian Bahajia by dipping them in a chickpea batter and frying them in unrefined coconut oil. The multi-faceted dish is served with oyster mushrooms.
Another popular dish is the comforting Butter Chicken. Paolillo slowly coal-roasts her chicken for hours in an Indian butter gravy, adds mushrooms, and finishes it with a touch of cream and tomato slices. The dish is served with mini-Naan bread.
Other menu items show off her creativity with local seasonal ingredients. The delicious and tender Roast Leg of Lamb is prepared with a black pepper curry, ramps, young chickpeas and asparagus. Feni Beef Short Ribs are prepared with cashew liquor, sliced coconut, fava beans and crostini. The vegetarian Cashew Rice Cakes incorporate seasonal micro greens and a coconut chutney. Another favorite vegetarian dish is the Bhel Puri, made with butternut squash, apples, chickpeas, cilantro and puffed rice.
An Indian twist on flatbread is the Paneer Pizzette, with micro greens, shaved pink and green radishes, and the restaurant’s namesake mango pickle relish, a popular Indian condiment.
Throughout the menu, one can easily perceive that Paolillo takes the essence of Indian cuisine and applies it to “our time and space,” as she likes to put it. “We’re in Chicago and we have four seasons. Using our own seasonal ingredients is my way of being a responsible chef and a responsible citizen. I want to be unique, to be my own voice. If I can stand out from the pack, set a trend in Indian cuisine, and build my own culinary niche, I will be very happy. So far, my customers have been enthusiastic and supportive. I can’t thank them enough.”
About Mango Pickle
Mango Pickle, a Modern Indian restaurant located at 5842 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60660 in the Edgewater neighborhood, is the brainchild of chef/owner Marisa Paolillo, a native Chicagoan who spent several years in Mumbai, India being inspired by and becoming disciplined in Indian cuisine. Using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, she pays homage to Indian culinary tradition while adding her personal touch and ingenuity to create a modern Indian cuisine that befits Chicago’s sophisticated culinary scene. Chef Gregory Bazire serves as Creative Partner.
Dinner is served Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 5-9 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. Special Chai tea service is available Sundays from 3-5 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. All major credit cards are accepted. Ample street parking is available. For reservations, visit the restaurant’s website at www.mangopicklechicago.com or call 773-944-5555.
Press Release | Fri May 03, 2019, 04:58 PM EST