pot roast perfection

When freezing temperatures and a biting wind set in with aggravating tenacity, a hearty serving of pot roast and potatoes is a no-frills dish with the ability to soothe - or at least thaw - the soul.

That's especially true if the normally unpretentious version of meat and potatoes has a touch of Tuscan flavor and is delivered to your table in a matter of minutes, which is what can be expected at Uptown's D'Amico and Sons. Although the caf largely serves traditional Italian fare, it also knows how to do right by pot roast.

A generous portion of the tender meat comes draped in a roasted tomato puree and is paired with a heap of thinly sliced potatoes flavored with roasted garlic, flecked with cooked carrots and topped with horseradish sauce. Two slices of accompanying bread serve a purpose that's important to any pot-roast meal: sopping up the gravy-like mixture left on the plate by the tender meat, potatoes and carrots.

The dish is flavorful, yet sticks pretty firmly to the basics. D'Amico and Sons uses a chuck roast cut of beef and cooks it with carrots and garlic until tender, mixing the meat's juices with the tomato puree that is spread on top. The potatoes are tossed in salt, pepper and thyme and then added to a mixture of sauted garlic and onion before being cooked with butter and chicken stock. A dollop of horseradish sauce adds the finishing touch to the platter.

The result is a meal that settles low in the stomach, warming the insides and making the thought of stepping back outside a tad less intolerable. Perhaps that's why it's one of the restaurant's most popular dishes. Lynn Ulrich, the director of operations for D'Amico and Sons, said the Tuscan Pot Roast seems especially to appeal to customers when the temperature drops and the winter months set in.

This dish is a cold-weather comfort food that's as modest as most Midwesterners and would go well on a menu with the likes of chicken and dumplings, meatloaf and bread pudding. It might be true that there's nothing quite like a good, home-cooked meal, but this isn't too far behind. It's the ultimate antidote to record-low temperatures and provides a little warmth for anyone weary of winter.