A New Step—Delirio

May 2016 View more

NMAG0516_TableForTwo_Delirio_interior_800pxDepending on one’s translator of choice, the Spanish term “delirio” can be equated with anything from “frenzy” to “delirium” to “raving” in English. So while it may be hard to pin down exactly what the new owners of the former Tango space in downtown Naperville had in mind when they settled on the name Delirio for their conceptual reboot, it’s pretty clear they were, at the very least, hoping to stir things up just a bit.

NMAG0516_TableForTwo_Delirio-027_800pxIn truth, just the act of bringing down the curtain on a longtime civic culinary marker like Tango takes a fair amount of entrepreneurial chutzpah, regardless of what one might have in mind for a replacement. After all, countless Naperville diners over the years have eaten, imbibed, and created memories at the popular Tango Sunday brunch or rolled out one of those famous Argentinean steaks.

But it’s clear that this was never about simply closing down a legend for the sake of change. From the still-flowing sangria to a lovingly recreated version of that signature steak, Delirio is respectfully performing several steps straight out of the old Tango handbook, while still breaking out very decisively in its own bold new direction.

NMAG0516_TableForTwo_Delirio-095_800pxBooster Shot

If the idea was to bring new vitality to a Naperville staple, then the boisterous crowd on our Saturday evening visit suggests the city may indeed be ready to join the frenzy. The first-floor Graffiti bar was a good example of the renewed sense of energy pulsing throughout Delirio, with the crew in near constant motion tending to the ambitious new cocktail program.

Upstairs, amid the familiar exposed-brick walls, we were seated beneath the watchful eyes of a beguiling/unnerving mural that suggested a female version of Fitzgerald’s T.J. Eckleburg billboard after a successful Lasik procedure. However, the most noteworthy change was clearly the menu itself, where executive chef Thomas Eckert has pared down the extensive and wide-ranging tapas slate of Tango in favor of a sparer, more locally focused and more chef-driven Latin fusion aesthetic. While selections remain grouped into small and large plates—alongside a handful of salads, cheese and charcuterie boards and, at lunchtime, sandwiches—the ingredients and preparations make it very clear that despite the familiar surroundings, this is most certainly a new experience.

NMAG0516_TableForTwo_Delirio-036_800pxDaring Fare

We opted to kick things off fairly simply, bypassing more adventurous small plates of octopus cheviche, margarita compressed watermelon and roasted marrow, in favor of a heaping bowl of chimichurri potato skin chips. Thanks to the awkwardness involved in trying to corral a handful of this light, slightly spicy and irregularly shaped scrapple, this may not have been an ideal “first date food,” but it was a delicious way to get things started, especially when paired with the accompanying bacon ranch dip.

NMAG0516_TableForTwo_Delirio-070_800pxMy companion stayed on the small plate side of the menu for the main course, finding it hard to resist the small but mighty crab cake empanadas, while I wandered over to the land and sea temptations of the large plate lineup, ultimately settling on the mojo bone-in Berkshire pork chop—a massive, juicy cut plated atop a hearty garbanzo bean cassoulet. While it seems as though the menu here will be a fluid document, changing perhaps with the seasons and the availability of fresh, locally grown ingredients, this pork chop may have the staying power to become Delirio’s version of that old Tango steak—a signature item with an aura all its own.

We wrapped things up with a chef-recommended chocolate ganache, an unassuming S-curl of richness studded with fresh berries that offered one last decadent piece of evidence in favor of the frenzy that may indeed be coming when Naperville discovers the new steps being performed at the old Tango.

Photos by Greg Shapps