Review: Gaetano's Batavia

Last night we went to Italy. Well, our stomachs did – we dined at Gaetano's Batavia. The restaurant just opened on Tuesday – when they made a Monday Facebook announcement that they were opening, I had a reservation within four minutes. This is a second location for the restaurant, the original is in Forest Park. It is the brain child of Gaetano and Wendy Di Benedetto, a delightful and passionate couple. Wendy does the front of the house, Gaetano rules the back. We were fortunate enough to be waited on by Wendy herself and just followed her lead. The menu is impressive, this is not your typical Italian pasta fare, this is culinary art at its best. The concept is Italian and Mediterranean traditions with a modern take, and everything (and I do mean everything) is made fresh in-house and their seafood is delivered daily.

We were seated immediately upon arrival, in a nice cozy corner by the window. The decor transports you into Mediterranian ruins under starry night sky. We were served with cucumber water and Wendy appeared almost immediately, greeting us warmly.

We started with a Limoncello Martini (Terry) and Proscecco (me), as we drooled over the menu. After talking to Wendy and drooling some more as she described the specials –  Mediterranean white fish filleted table side, and a pasta with black truffles that was freshly shaved also table side (quite impressive considering truffles are not quite in season yet) – we decided on a Gaetapas Tasting. It is a three-course dinner, tapas style, followed by pasta and a dessert tray. Each course was from a different station: three cold, three wood-burning, and three from gas station. Speaking of wood-burning, they have a sizable round wood-burning oven in the corner of the kitchen, covered in beautiful tile mosaic. The kitchen is small, narrow, and open, with a long counter for the waiters – which also allows diners to partake in the show and see all this wonderful food come together. They will honor all dietary restrictions, as each plate is prepared from scratch just for you. Yes, you might have to wait a little for your food, but this is fine dining, not a quick pasta dinner because your fridge was empty that night.

The bread for the table is rosemary focaccia that is baked in a large round pan in the wood-burning oven and sprinkled with sea salt. It is cut into strips and presented in a little bucket. They baked another tray while we were dining, when it came out the air was suddenly hit with scent of rosemary and one couldn't help but take notice.

They have an nice wine list, and are very knowledgeable about what wine goes best with their food. I recommend letting them pick out the wine for you, Terry did that and was very impressed with the choice.

Among the multiple dishes were:
Carpaccio di Barbarietole (carpaccio-sliced yellow and red beets roasted in a wood-burning oven, drizzled with champagne vinegar, topped with fresh mache greens and a ball of fried goat cheese) The beets were stunning and the goat cheese just melted on our tongues.

Gaetanos beets and goat cheese
Di Tonno all 'Uovo (tuna carpaccio drizzled very lightly with sesame-soy-lime citronette, topped with a perfect sphere of egg yolk sous-vide*, topped with puddlefish caviar) Wendy had me at sous-vide. Before eating, gently spread the egg over the tuna with a spoon, then attempt to keep your eyes inside their sockets as the combination of fresh tuna, egg yolk, tiny caviar pearls, and citronette melts in your mouth slowly sending you over the edge.


There was a plate and flatware change between every course. They gave us plenty of time to enjoy every single bite, and the company of each other without rushing us. Of course we talked about nothing else but the food and our surroundings, just could not help it. We saw other fabulous dishes travel out the door to the alfresco patio, and strategized about what we might order on our next visit.
Datteri con Polpettina al Cocco (dates stuffed with beef and chorizo, wrapped in pancetta and baked in that wonderful wood-burning oven, served in a coconut tomato sauce)  arrived along with
Capesante al Cioccolato (enormous fresh scallops dusted with cocoa powder, roasted in wood-burning oven, served over king oyster mushrooms, chocolate vinaigrette, topped with watercress and finished off with 25-year old Modena balsamico) Two words: scallop and chocolate!

scallop with chocolate, Gaetanos
Chef treated us to Consoletta di Maiale al Granchio (pork chop wrapped around crab meat, sauteed with garlic, shrimp and gorgonzola fondue, served over super-creamy mashed potatoes), absolutely delicious. The pork is succulent, the crab tastes like the sea even though we don't have an ocean any where near us, and the mashed potatoes are as light as whipped cream.

We were about to collapse from food coma, when Rigatoni alla Trasteverina arrived. It is rigatoni made in-house (I saw an enormous tray of it travel from the secret lab downstairs) with house-made Italian sausage and wild mushrooms in tomato-cream sauce, tossed with parmigiano and a dollop of goat cheese. Classic Italian dish, done with perfection.

I kept seeing these nice size steaks being served, while still on fire from the oven. I discovered that it is a Ribeye di Manzo al Fumo: a ribeye steak that they age, once again in-house, for 31 days. It is baked on a thick cedar plank with bay leaves standing in the middle, and presented right out of the oven on the plank, with tiny bits still burning and the leaves smoking. Smoking bay leaves – just imagine the aroma. The steak is on my list for our next visit.

There is no dessert menu, they will tell you about the desserts, or tempt you with a dessert tray. The tray is a square divided into four sections. One was a spoonful of panna cotta with a lemon rind as a palette cleanser, another was almond semifreddo topped with chocolate sauce that tasted like biscotti and was extremely delicious, third one was a decostructed crème brûlée, and last one was a tiramisu. A flower pot tiramisu. With a fresh flower in it.  

We finished our night with Limoncello, and very slowly and reluctantly proceeded home. Wendy let me walk away with the menu.

Reservations are an absolute must. There will be a second dining room soon for overflow, private parties, and other interesting dining experiences.  Wear a nice outfit two sizes bigger than usual because you will be expanding from all the delicious food.
630 406 3009 for reservations or OpenTable
Closed Sundays.

*Sous-vide (/sˈvd/; French for "under vacuum") is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times—72 hours in some cases—at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 °C (131 °F) to 60 °C (140 °F) for meats and higher for vegetables. The intention is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and retain moisture. (Wikipedia)
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