Give me a 600-day aged prosciutto & roasted peppers salad, a wood-fired Bianco Neapolitan pizza and a big glass of Nero D’avola. Served in minutes and all for under $35. Neoteca is my happy place when I don’t want to cook and my fridge is bare.
You know the old adage when you drop by the home of an Italian. Nonna will say “Have you eaten? Let me fix you a little something”, and out pops plates of wonderful cured meats, aged cheese, bruschetta, olives, marinated artichokes, fresh gnocchi with homemade sauce, and a pizza made with dough from last night. At least that is what my Mom would have served.
Unlike a cozy kitchen table, Neoteca is a sleek, dark, minimalist-style neighborhood restaurant. Conversation-friendly ambient music plays in the background. Seating offers a choice of high tables, sofas and regular-size tables, as well as an outside patio with heaters for those chilly late nights. It is the kind of place where you grab a quick snack, drink and nosh with your friends, or enjoy a date holding hands. Since Neoteca is located at the main corner in downtown Barrington, it is especially nice to grab a window table and people-watch sipping on espresso over ice cream (called an Affogato). If you are looking for a traditional spaghetti and meatball joint, this is not your place.
Owner Guy Sorrentino, born and raised in Naples, Italy, also owns Pizzeria Neo with locations in Naperville and St. Charles. As a certified pizza master specializing in Neapolitan pizza, Guy wanted the Barrington location to offer its award-winning wood-fired pizza as well but expand the concept to emphasize good wine too! This also explains the name Neoteca and logo. The name Neoteca comes from a compound of Neo or “New” and Enoteca or “Teca” which is an Italian wine bar/eatery. The corkscrew in the logo highlights the emphasis on being a wine bar.
The biggest surprise at Neoteca is the fabulous wine cellar and offerings. Guy Sorrentino invested in a commercial wine preservation system so you can order expensive wine by the glass! The preservation system electronically pumps the right amount of argon gas back into the bottle to prevent oxidation - basically re-corking the bottle - which allows Neoteca to open expensive bottles without waste, and you, the lucky diner, to try great wines without having to buy the whole bottle. It is hard to find another neighborhood restaurant with such a priority on wine!
The wine list is primarily from Italy and California, with a smattering of other imports. The cellar keeps changing as they find new wines to enjoy. For example, try a beautiful deep red Nebbiolo from Piedmont for $15 glass. I enjoyed a glass of their private-label red blend from California for $7 per glass.
The pizza is Neapolitan style, meaning a very thin, charred bottom crust from the wood-burning fireplace topped with perfectly balanced quality ingredients. The 12-inch pizzas are great to share. The fireplace cooks a pizza in 2-3 minutes at 900 degrees! Pizzas can be ordered with red pizza sauce, or “Bianco” with no red sauce. Toppings include San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spicy soppressata, homemade fennel sausage, and paper-thin sliced porchetta. Mamma-Mia!. Don’t forget to fold the slice in half for easiest easting. My husband craves pizza on a weekly basis and loved it.
It was hard to pick from the wide array of hot and cold plates on the menu. There is the Salumi Bars where you can mix and match any of the 25 imported meats, cheeses and olives in different size platters to share. My only complaint was the bread. I prefer a crustier, chewier italian bread.
Add a plate or two from the Bruschetta Bar with over 14 delicious and inventive toppings. Try the Burrata Bacon Bruschetta! For those looking for low-carb options, the Bruschetta can be served on bibb lettuce instead of bread.
There are also Antipasti options, salads, fresh pasta choices, and Neapolitan Pizza’s - making it almost impossible to choose. Our servers, Angela and John were delightful, very knowledgable about the foods, and helpful answering all of our questions. The service was fast and friendly.
We chose the 600-day aged proscuitto (notice the marbling throughout the prosciutto) with fresh mozz, homemade roasted peppers, arugula and sun dried tomatoes. It was a beautiful presentation and big enough to serve as salad for two.
The fried calamari was outstanding! It came to the table hot and smelling like heaven. It was crispy and fresh tasting. The calamari rings were hand-breaded and served with a side of homemade marinara. An unexpected and pleasant surprise were the breaded and fried pepperoncini peppers mixed in. What a lovely pop of spice!
We also tried the meatballs - the true test of any good Italian restaurant. The manager Nick told us that most of the recipes are from Mama Sorrentino, and that she personally trains the chef! She still makes the gnocchi, marinara, and tiramisu herself! The meatballs were large, soft and loaded with grated cheese. I plan to save one for breakfast.
We made a meal of these small plates and platters of food and never got to the pasta menu. Instead we dived right into a sampling of homemade desserts. The deconstructed cannoli was fun and easy to share. My husband wolfed down the tiramisu, and I savored the Affogato.
If you see us hanging out at Neoteca snacking and drinking, please stop by and say hi. I’ll say “Have you eaten? Pull up a chair and let Neoteca fix you a little something!”