GT Fish & Oyster: A Balancing Act of Traditional and Modern Seafood in Chicago

In the five years Chicago’s GT Fish & Oyster has been open, they’ve sold roughly 1.5 million oysters. Of the concept, the restaurant’s chef and partner, Giuseppe Tentori, says it was, at first, a challenge. “Five years ago, there were not too many seafood restaurants — it was like fine dining or super casual.”

And while Chicago may be inland, Tentori says fish is being flown into the Windy City every day. “It’s beautiful, too. Sometimes they save the best fish for the big cities because we pay the prime price.”

Tentori went to culinary school in Milan, and, after working for four years, moved to Chicago to work for Chef Gabriel Viti. Tentori headed off to Utah for three years after that to open a restaurant called Metropolitan, then studied with Charlie Trotter for about nine years, and in 2007, he started working for the Chicago-based Boka Restaurant Group, which owns GT Fish & Oyster.

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The Menu

GT Fish & Oyster is known for its shareable plates format, but is not limited for those who do not want to share. (Bonus: The restaurant even makes its own sauces.)

A huge driver is the restaurant’s oyster selection. “Every oyster has different flavor,” says Tentori. “For wine, terroir is very important. Oysters, same thing.” Today, GT Fish & Oyster has about 95 different varieties of oysters, 63 of which can be expected daily, plus a couple of more unique varieties for oyster enthusiasts. 

“We spend a lot of time on the phone,” Tentori says. “We’ve built a strong relationship with our purveyor, so they know what we like and what we want, so they will source it for us and tell us exactly, ‘These are the best oysters right now.’”

Tentori explains GT’s menu as a balanced mixture of traditional and modern seafood. For the diners who prefer the traditional route, there’s fish & chips, lobster rolls, mussels, oysters, and the like. For diners who prefer a more modern take, the menu offers items like shrimp bruschetta with avocado, toasted pistachio, grapefruit, and cilantro. In this “Table 42” vignette, Chef Tentori shows us how to make this dish.

In the Kitchen

The shrimp bruschetta appetizer dish starts with searing salt-and-peppered shrimp. Avocado mousse, housed in a bag for application, is made by mixing avocado and jalapeño — but keeping the avocado pit in the bag is key to ensure it stays green for a longer time. Spread the avocado mousse onto the bruschetta. Then, cut grapefruit in thirds and place on top of the mousse. Split the shrimps in half and add onto the bruschetta. Add fresno pepper, pistachios, cilantro leaves, and lime zest. 

Quick Six With... Tony Mantuano, James Beard Semifinalist for "Outstanding Chef"

Quick Six With... Tony Mantuano, James Beard Semifinalist for "Outstanding Chef"

It’s been more than 30 years now since the chef-restaurateur moved to Chicago and opened Spiaggia in 1984, touted as the first and only Italian restaurant in Chicago to receive four stars. Before opening Spiaggia, which also received James Beard nominations in the past for “Outstanding Restaurant in America” and “Outstanding Service,” Mantuano worked in many Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy, though he originally hails from Wisconsin, where he co-owns Mangia Wine Bar with his family. Other ventures he has a hand in as chef-partner include River RoastBar Toma, and Terzo Piano. To say he’s a busy man would almost be an understatement. And we can’t forget to mention his involvement as a contestant on Season 2 of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” or the multiple cookbooks he has authored, including one he co-authored with wife and wine expert Cathy Mantuano, “Wine Bar Food.”

Below, we ask the Chef six questions about his best time management tip, the one culinary trend that needs to fade out, his stance on tipping versus no tipping, and more:

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In Chicago, a Michelin-Starred Restaurant Lives in a Concert Hall

In Chicago, a Michelin-Starred Restaurant Lives in a Concert Hall

A lot of factors go into enticing diners to spend money at your restaurant. And soon, the quality of food and drink will be elevated everywhere, stressing the need for other pieces of the dining experience to stand out.

Dusek’s Board and Beer in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood already has that X factor: it’s one of the only restaurants with a Michelin star that’s attached to a concert venue. That venue is Thalia Hall, commissioned in 1892 by John Dusek, hence the restaurant’s name. And as the establishment’s full name suggests, “we like to do food paired with beer,” says Jared Wentworth, executive chef and partner.

“Thalia Hall at Pilsen fell into our lap,” he says. “One of my partners had found the space, brought us over, and we were just immediately in love with the space.”

Wentworth and his partners could already see the vision.

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Sneak Peek: Chicago’s Honey Butter Fried Chicken

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, even the most seemingly mundane things can produce a bit of magic, a lightbulb idea, or a new concept angle. 

In the case of Chicago’s Honey Butter Fried Chicken, all of the above are true. Watch the sneak peek video as HBFC’s Christine Cikowski, executive chef, managing partner and chief high-fiver, tells us about the “accidental” moment that would ultimately lead to the start of the highly acclaimed flavor combination of chicken slathered with some butter. 

Stay tuned for the full “Fast Casual Nation” episode, coming out soon!

Rooftop Beehives are Keeping Chicago Restaurants Sweet

Across the the country, on city rooftops there are secret beehives. Similar to kitchen gardens, restaurants are harvesting these hives for honey to incorporate this ultra-local ingredient into their dishes. 

Chicago is a tough environment for these bees due to the frigid winters. However, since Illinois is not a big beekeeping state, the hives were not affected by colony collapse disorder like many other cities. This is when the worker bees abruptly disappear and this is affecting agriculture and restaurant menus around the world. 

Artisan Table, Harvest, and Lockwood are just some of the Chicago restaurants currently with rooftop hive or plans to install them. The honey harvested is not only being used in dishes like butternut squash soup and on various desserts but also in wheat beer recipes. Read More