Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Sea Scallops and Caviar
Osso Buco with Mushroom Risotto and Gremolata
Grapefruit and Spinach Salad with Raspberries; Champagne Vinaigrette
Spice Cakes with Apricot Caramel Sauce
Written and produced by Krissa Rossbund
Photographs by Tyllie Barbosa
A “take-out” approach to entertaining has nothing to do with fast-food meals wrapped in paper at the home of Chicago designer Frank Ponterio and his wife, Becky. When this couple hosts an intimate dinner, there’s a good chance it won’t be in the dining room of their 1920s suburban home, designed by prolific architect David Adler. Instead, the meal is often taken out to a separate structure they call the “Pour Room.” Just steps from their back door, the Pour Room was originally the carriage house of what was once a 500-acre estate, and it has become the go-to spot where Frank and Becky now enjoy casual dinners and indulge in their extensive collection of wine, housed in temperature-controlled units at one end of the room.
“Our property is full of architectural history,” explains Frank. “Long ago, the estate included 27 buildings, and we live in what was the gate lodge. It’s interesting to dine in the Pour Room, because not only does it speak to the casual but elegant way we prefer to entertain, but it acknowledges the tranformations we’ve made.”
Outlined in worn brick, the interior walls of the small, narrow Pour Room beg for furniture that supports its country charm. Weathered café chairs skirted in ivory-colored linen surround a rough-hewn French farm table that has a perfectly imperfect finish marked by dents and scars. Frank opted not to use a tablecloth that would hide its rugged patina. Instead, sage green place mats establish each setting.
Wanting to enhance the Pour Room’s old world aesthetic, Frank chose sturdy porcelain dinnerware that sports a handsome pewter rim. The substantial pieces were an ideal choice for a hearty menu of cauliflower soup, traditional Osso Buco, a spinach salad with grapefruit, and warm spice cakes. Voluminous glass service plates elegantly frame the hefty pewter-edged dinnerware.
The napkin—a faded, Batik-like print in sage green—is tied with vines clipped from the outside walls of the carriage house. Amber wine goblets and water glasses with bubbles blown into the glass offer textural and colorful departures from the usual clear water glasses. Flatware is also stylishly mismatched. Knives with resin handles made to look like tree bark contrast with the modern sensibilities of vintage midcentury Dansk soup spoons, while orange ranunculus and ferns dance down the middle of the table. All is illuminated by purposely burned-down pillar candles.
“Candles burned midway with wax dripping down the sides are more natural than using new ones every time you throw a party,” explains Frank. “Candles that have obviously been used before make you wonder what the last gathering was and who attended.”
The Ponterios could have used the carriage house for anything. In fact, it was first outfitted as an office for Becky, but they prefer it as the spot where they celebrate and enjoy their passions for food and wine.
“When you buy an old house, you always get that one surprise spot, whether it’s a little nook or a secret room that makes the house individual, with its own unique character,” says Frank. “For us, that space is the Pour Room. Because it’s separate from our house, every time we step into it, we are reminded that we are there for a special reason.”