Din­ing: Mama Delia opens in Wicker Park

Chicago Sun-Times - - TASTE - BY NAOMI WAX­MAN Eater Chicago

When Span­ish Wicker Park restau­rant Black Bull first opened in 2012, its own­ers were trep­i­da­tious. Con­cerned that lo­cal din­ers would be put off by un­fa­mil­iar of­fer­ings — menu op­tions largely dwelled on tapas to great ef­fect. But for nearly a decade, lo­cals and tourists flocked to the Bon­homme Hos­pi­tal­ity-owned spot for re­gional spe­cial­i­ties and Span­ish-style G&Ts. Af­ter eight years, the group de­cided that Chicago is ready for some­thing new: Mama Delia, a Span­ish restau­rant, sherry bar and ul­tra­marino (gourmet mar­ket), now open in the former Black Bull space at 1721 W. Di­vi­sion Street.

Mama Delia’s din­ing room walks a fine line between op­u­lence and moder­nity, with thick car­pets and styl­ized-mid­cen­tury chairs that sit be­neath geo­met­ric hang­ing light fix­tures with ex­posed bulbs. It’s a brighter at­mos­phere than Black Bull, which tended to err on the moody side.

The kitchen is open, and those who want a closer look can sit at a 30-foot mar­ble chef ’s counter, which con­nects the din­ing room to the ul­tra­marino and sherry bar. There, din­ers can try Span­ish sher­ries, cheese and char­cu­terie, in­clud­ing hand­carved Cinco Jo­tas jamón ibérico. Cus­tomers can also pick up pantry items such as im­ported and house-made con­ser­vas like cock­les, zam­buriñas and ra­zor clams, along with spe­cialty olive oils, dried spices and more.

Out­door din­ing, un­til re­cently a nice but not wholly nec­es­sary op­tion for bars and restau­rants, is now more vi­tal than ever due to the city’s in­door re­stric­tions, de­signed to help stem the spread of COVID-19. For­tu­nately for Mama Delia, the space fea­tures a 60-seat pa­tio with planters and other flora ar­ranged to keep pa­trons at an ap­pro­pri­ate so­cial dis­tance, with string lights twin­kling over­head. For those who want ex­tra dis­tance, there’s also a lush up­stairs pri­vate din­ing space — a 2,500-square-foot en­closed rooftop gar­den called the “Botánico,” di­vided into two rooms and out­fit­ted with an open demo kitchen and bar.

The restau­rant gives ex­ec­u­tive chef Mar­cos Cam­pos a chance to show off his fa­vorite tech­niques and in­gre­di­ents, and high­light what he’s learned since open­ing Black Bull al­most a decade ago. Both Cam­pos and and chef de cuisine Antonio Ca­pa­fons are na­tives of Va­len­cia, Spain, and aim to give Chicago a taste of con­tem­po­rary Span­ish cuisine — a “bril­liant blend” of tra­di­tional fare and mod­ern tech­niques, like the “Huevos Ro­tos Shooter” (chorizo ibérico and oys­ter sofrito, truf­fle, egg yolk, fried egg and potato es­puma, fried pota­toes). There’s a touch of whimsy to the menu as well, ev­i­dent in of­fer­ings like “Tar­tar de Tern­era” (bone mar­row, dry-aged an­gus beef, pi­parra pep­pers, bo­querones, Rose Finn potato chips), with plat­ing that re­sem­bles a fallen log in a fairy tale for­est.

Bev­er­age of­fer­ings are vast and var­ied: there’s the wine list, stacked with nat­u­ral and or­ganic op­tions, in­clud­ing 34 sherry se­lec­tions, as well as a few im­ported beers and san­gria in sev­eral fla­vors. A few items on bev­er­age di­rec­tor Ri­cardo Al­varado’s cock­tail list may sound fa­mil­iar to Black Bull fans, but there are novel twists, too, like the “Mostly Good For You” (vodka, car­rot juice, gin­ger syrup, orange juice, lemon).

And then there’s Bordel, Black Bull’s pop­u­lar sec­ond-floor cock­tail bar and cabaret. Fans can calm them­selves, be­cause own­er­ship isn’t mess­ing with the in­ti­mate, op­u­lent speakeasy-style spot. Op­er­a­tions re­sumed in late June with live jazz and en­ter­tain­ment, an “ab­bre­vi­ated” Mama Delia menu, and plenty of drinks.

Bon­homme Hos­pi­tal­ity, known in large part for its in-house de­sign stu­dio Mai­son Bon­homme, owns a num­ber of crowd-draw­ing Chicago restau­rants in­clud­ing newish Gala­cian seafood spot Porto and boho-style re­treat Beat­nik, along with sis­ter spot Beat­nik on the River.

Mama Delia is now open in Wicker Park. Reser­va­tions are avail­able at

ma­madelia.com. Mama Delia, 1721 W. Di­vi­sion Street, open 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tues­day through Fri­day; 2 p.m. to 3 a.m. Satur­day; 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sun­day.

Orig­i­nally pub­lished on chicago.eater.com.

PALOMA MARTINEZ

The Mama Delia din­ing room.

PALOMA MARTINEZ

The Mama Delia pa­tio.

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