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Cibo Matto's cotton candy man

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story and photo by guest blogger Lisa Shames

The way chef Evan Percoco of Cibo Matto sees it, dining in a restaurant is all about bringing people together. So he's always on the lookout for ways to keep the conversation flowing.

That goes for the Loop restaurant's post-dessert/check-accompanying freebie, too. No boring mints or chocolate bon-bons here. Rather, the new chef -- he replaced Todd Stein, now at the Florentine, a few months back -- taps into a childhood favorite to keep his guests smiling.

To wit: cotton candy.

"When we put it down on the table, people automatically start talking about old times," says Percoco, with the conversation becoming about memories, rather than, say, business.

Don't expect your typical cotton candy though. Percoco, who's been doing this for years at other restaurants, gets creative with the carnival staple, churning out flavors like cinnamon, vanilla, pineapple and lemon. "As long as you can spray it on the sugar, it can work," says Percoco. Be on the lookout for a Manhattan- and maybe a licorice-flavored one soon.

It's not just the guests who are having all the fun with the sticky-in-a-good-way treat. Since it has to be made fresh for each table, the entire staff lends a hand in manning the bright-pink sugar-spinning machine. And while the process takes less than a minute, that doesn't mean you can't get imaginative with it.

"It's funny that everyone has their own style in making it," says Percoco, who admits he prefers it fluffy and piled high in the bowl while one of the servers is known for his "Q-tip" shape. "It gets pretty competitive during service to see who can create the best."

Cibo Matto, 201 N. State, (312) 239-9500.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by Janet Rausa Fuller published on February 15, 2011 9:11 AM.

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