The Chicago Sun Times has described Al Dente's founder, chef Javier Perez, as "the James Brown of the kitchen, which is to say he might just be the hardest-working dude in chow business." Perez did not earn this moniker overnight, however. In 1990, after moving to Chicago from Mexico City, he got his first job in the restaurant business as a dishwasher at Tuttaposto, under the James-Beard-Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano. After cutting his culinary teeth on fresh Italian dishes and moving up through the kitchen ranks, he then went on to hone his cooking skills in the kitchens of high-profile Chicago restaurants including MK Restaurant and Michelin-starred Spiaggia, finally rising to sous chef at Cibo Matto at the Wit.
Since co-founding Al Dente with his wife of 23 years, Maria, Perez has not rested on his hard-earned culinary laurels. Instead, he continues to experiment with seasonal ingredients when crafting his rotating menu of Italian, French, and Mexican inspired cuisine. Perez adds a twist to traditional spaghetti with his wild-boar ragout and brings out the savory, fresh flavors of watermelon with feta cheese, parsley, mint, and citrus vinaigrette.
Avocado-hued walls and brown-linen napkins create an earthy atmosphere in the dining room to complement the fresh produce featured in the dishes. Alternatively, patrons may opt to sip bottles of wine toted from home on the outdoor patio.