Everyone in my family loves the Italian American comfort of a good breaded cutlet. There's simply great satisfaction in the hot crunch and delicate chew of one done fresh and right — a thin sheet of tender meat cloaked in a seasoned and greaseless crust, blushing with just a thin but deeply zingy red smear of bright marinara. At Cotoletta in Belmont Hills, the clubby BYOB that replaced Mel's last year with an entire menu dedicated to cutlet-craft (plus old-school anachronisms like the Milan salad), owner Beth Amadio has mastered the genre down to an egg wash flavored with secret spice. A big 12-ounce veal chop gets pounded thin and breaded crisp for a deluxe veal Parm upgrade. But for the indecisive who cannot really choose – chicken? veal? vegetarian? – the cutlet is a worthy adventure. Would it be too much, though? Two chicken cutlets wrapped around an eggplant cutlet oozing with melted provolone and two inner layers of sausage-stuffed long hot peppers sounds like just the kind of gimmicky contraption I'd normally resist. It's essentially a KFC Double Down for the red-gravy set. But then I took a slice. And another. Every single layer was so carefully built and distinct, yet forked into one deliciously complex bite, the mild chicken and moist eggplant framing the fennel and spice of that hot chili and sausage, that I found myself devouring it with unexpected enthusiasm. Before I knew it, I had climbed Mt. Cutlet and planted my flag in a favorite new splurge.
— Craig LaBan