Q&A: Chef Ryan Poli, Tavernita, Chicago


Ryan Poli is bringing a new style of Spanish dining to Chicago.

Poli, who won critical acclaim while running the kitchen at Perennial, a restaurant owned by the BOKA Restaurant Group in Chicago, has since joined Mercadito Hospitality. There, he is chef–partner at Tavernita and its sister concept, Barcito, which are scheduled to open in December.

Tavernita will encompass a 120-seat restaurant and 70-seat lounge serving Spanish and Latin-inspired tapas. Menu items will range from traditional dishes such as croquetas and pan con tomato, to fluke crudo and Wagyu beef and pork meatballs. The check average will range from $40 to $45.

Barcito, located adjacent to Tavernita, will be a San Sebastián-style pintxo bar — a new culinary addition to the Chicago dining scene. Pintxo is the Basque version of tapas.

Both concepts will feature a beverage program including keg wines and cocktails developed by beverage consultants The Tippling Bros., who devised the cocktail programs at many of the Mercadito restaurants.

Nation’s Restaurant News senior food editor Bret Thorn spoke with Poli about the concept.

Tell us about Barcito.

Tavernita means “little tavern,” and Barcito means “little bar.”

There’s a square bar in the center and then tables for four or six people. Chefs will be making the pintxos behind the bar. You have the option of walking up to them and saying, “I’ll take two of those,” and staying at the stand-and-eat bar, or you can sit down at one of the tables or stools and a server will come by.