Last weekend, we visited the Marion Street Cheese Market Café to see what dishes were being created by Steve Chiappetti, the chef who replaced Leonard Hollander in the kitchen, and who describes his food as “American cuisine at heart, with a focus on farm to table product.”

Noticing that the Marion Street Cheese Market seemed to be scaling back on the cheeses offered in the cooler cases, I asked Chiappetti whether he thought there was a place for cheese on his menu. He assured us, “We love cheese, so cheese will find its way into a lot of dishes. From soup to salad, sandwich to pasta, to even desserts.”

There are also several cheese flights, which are usually served before the meal, though we prefer them for dessert. If you don’t want some or all the cheese listed for any particular flight, the cheese department will be glad to put together a flight composed of any cheeses you want.

We very much enjoyed the fried chicken, which had a very light, almost tempura-like breading, delicately fried. Chiappetti described this dish as “a classic home-style American meal done with flair. We wanted to use the best from the farm to create this dish.” We especially liked the simple mound of delicately cooked collards, rather than a big mess o’ greens, and this restrained approach is very much in keeping with Chiappetti’s fine dining background.

I asked Chiappetti about any unique opportunities or challenges in the kitchen at Marion Street Cheese Market Café, and he explained, “Our kitchen is completely electric, which is unique. Everyone thinks that electric is not as hot and that it takes longer to cook the food, but it’s actually faster than any gas burner out there.”

Chiappetti, who worked in Oak Park years ago at Coq le Coq told us he “loves Oak Park, the people and the history. We’re proud to add our kitchen to the neighborhood.”

If the full dining room is any indication, Oak Park feels pretty good about Chiappetti, too. 

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...

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