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America's Most Wanted

Stairway to Caviar Heaven

Rick Tramonto's Caviar Staircase. © Ron Manville

When he first opened Trio in Evanston, Illinois, in 1993, chef Rick Tramonto knew he wanted to include a caviar course in the tasting menu. “But we had no money,” he says. “So I had to figure out how to do this spectacular caviar presentation for nothing. Evanston is an artsy town, so I went around to these art shops and I found this palette. I set the different-colored caviars on it to make it look like a painter’s palette.”

Upon opening Tru in Chicago in 1999, Tramonto was given a much larger budget. “I hired a glass artist to help me design a staircase with eight steps: four for the caviars, four for the condiments—the chopped egg white, the egg yolk, yellow onion, the capers. We also served homemade brioche and crème fraîche. You could buy different staircases, like the all-black staircase: a tasting of osetra, sevruga and beluga.”

Today, caviar lovers can get the famous staircase at Restaurant R’evolution in New Orleans, and a replica of the glass staircase is available for purchase on Tramonto’s website (caviar not included). “The staircase has my name carved in it. We used to joke that it’s a signature dish, but now it’s signed, so it literally is a signature dish.”

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