The quick-fixe Pinto box is named for both the Japanese bento box and Chicago women’s fashion designer Maria Pinto, with whom the restaurant staff has a close relationship. “It’s derived from the idea of a bento box,” says executive chef Andrew Zimmerman. “Emmanuel Nony spent a lot of time in Japan, so he was very familiar with bento box idea. We were looking for a way to offer something unique and interesting and designed for quick lunch.” The oval shaker box comfortably fits a first course, entrée and dessert, which all change daily. This fashionable, all-in-one meal has become a favorite among business women, Zimmerman says. “Men who come for lunch are more apt to go for the [Slagel Farmhouse burger on a rosemary bun] or the house-made corned beef.” Zimmerman says that despite the current economic environment, Sepia does a significant number of covers at lunch, and check averages remain strong. “We are able to do enough, partly because of our positioning [in the neighborhood] with business people coming for lunch. We hope people like the Pinto box and find it to be a fun way to have a quick lunch.” power lunch by Maggie Shea Yield: 4 servings 1/4 c. olive oil 1/4 c. purchased pomegranate syrup 2 T. pomegranate juice 1/4 t. salt 1/4 t. pepper 2 medium Bartlett pears, cored and halved 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (12 oz.) 4 7-in. round pocket breads 4 oz. soft goat cheese 2 c. mixed greens Pomegranate seeds, for garnish Method (1) Combine olive oil, pomegranate syrup, pomegranate juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Reserve 1/4 c. vinaigrette for drizzling on sandwiches. (2) Preheat grill to medium heat. Brush cut side of pears with some pomegranate vinaigrette. Grill cut-side down until lightly grill-marked, or Affordable and fast, the power-lunch concept fills seats in city restaurants CASABLANCA CHICKEN & PEAR SANDWICH John Cook, executive chef, Fez Restaurant and Urban Bar, Phoenix, about 5 minutes. Let cool. Slice thin. (3) Place chicken in a dish with remaining pomegranate vinaigrette. Turn to coat. Remove from pomegranate vinaigrette, and grill on medium heat, 6-7 minutes until lightly grill-marked. Turn. Brush with remaining pomegranate vinaigrette in dish. Cook 6 minutes or until internal temperature has reached 170°F. Let cool. Slice thin. (4) Cut pocket breads in half. Fill both halves with sliced chicken, pears, goat cheese and mixed greens. Drizzle with reserved vinaigrette, and garnish with pomegranate seeds. Wine pairing: Louis Latour Bourgogne 2006 (France) is a crisp, French Chardonnay that will round out the elegant package of chicken, pears and goat cheese. NORTHWEST PEAR BUREAU The Pinto box at Sepia A mid a sea of BlackBerrywielding suits waiting to be seated, waitstaff breeze through will full trays of sandwiches, salads and soups. The restaurant is filled with the muffled sound of conversation and clanging dishes. Diners eat quickly, often doing business over lunch, and head back to work. It is the power lunch, the lifeblood of many restaurants at midday. Corporate dining budgets have no doubt tightened in recent months, but restaurants open for lunch in urban centers are finding ways to fill seats through affordable and creative prix-fixe menu options. Better between bread Sometimes nothing satisfies a lunch crowd like a filling sandwich. John Cook, chef at Fez in Phoenix (www., says he maintains a straightforward lunch menu, usually headlined by sandwiches. “We bank on our lunches, which mainly serve business people,” he says. “Sandwiches at lunch here are very popular. Definitely our Fez burger and our rosemary chicken sandwich are among the best-selling items.” Each month, Cook runs a customer appreciation special, which is lunch-driven and offered at a lower price than the other menu items. “It will be a sandwich, special soup or special lunch entrée that I develop A fashionable lunchbox Sepia ( in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood sees a large crowd at the lunch hour because of its positioning near the city’s financial center. In addition to such lunch items as sandwiches, salads and lunch portion-size entrées, owner Emmanuel Nony came up with the concept of the Pinto box, a quick and cleverly packaged lunch option at a fixed price of $18. The March/April 2010 | 11