Tag Archives: Italian Food

Lucia’s

I have ventured many a time to Lucia’s, a small, BYOB Italian restaurant in Bucktown/Wicker Park (can someone tell me the difference between these two areas? Because as I see it, they’re the exact same hood). Clearly anyone who reads this blog knows me and my friends’ penchant for BYOBs, so I thought I’d introduce my friend Lisa to Lucia’s, which is great Italian fare for a great price, as we were going out in the synonymous Bucktown/Wicker Park anyway. On the outside, it looks like a typical modest Italian deli you would normally see in on Taylor Street, except it’s on North Avenue. Off to the side, however, is the inconspicuous entrance to their restaurant.

For 8pm on a Friday night, our wait wasn’t too long, and we were sat comfortably into their smallish dining room. I of course immediately proceeded to order their mussels and pasta, and Lisa and I indulged in a bottle of red.  Lucia’s fare is traditional Italian, with fresh, simple ingredients and flavors. It is great food, and a warm, cozy atmosphere, one of those places where you can dip your bread in the mussels sauce, order another bottle of wine with your friends and stay there for hours.

I actually feel like Lucia’s should be more on Taylor street smack dab in the middle of Italian Village rather than on west North Avenue. But I’m not complaining; it’s a great BYOB meal to have before a night out in hipsterville.

Lisa greatly enjoyed her first experience there, and I give it four spoons out of five. If you don’t want to haul your ass all the way down to South side, Lucia’s as an alternative is not too shabby.

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Ignotz’s Ristorante

I live in what you call the North side of Chicago. As do all of my friends. This varies from West Loop, to Lincoln Park, but I do not have a single friend, let alone acquaintance (that I know of) that does not live South of Wrigleyville. Therefore, we usually, when venturing to dinner, or to the bars, we steer clear of the centralized hoods of downtown and Wicker Park (I personally hate Wrigleyville unless I am there for a Cubs game). Broadening our horizons, my friends and I ventured to Pilsen where Little Italy is located, and went to what my boss calls “one of the best Italian in the city,” Ignotz’s Ristorante. If you’re unaware of Chicago geography, I’ll go ahead and tell you that Pilsen and Wrigleyville are on exact opposite sides of the city. However, the 2400 block of South Oakley is lined with other little Italian spots that I have just added to my ever-increasing restaurant list. It’s a cute little street, where Ignotz’s is happily situated amongst residences.

Wine usually makes me sleepy, so I try to avoid it before a night out, which provides a conundrum for me, as I love drinking wine with dinner. Bur order a bottle of wine we did, which of course make me sleepy, but the long cab ride back downtown with dance music blaring woke me right up.

To start, we ordered the fried calamari for the table, which, to me, lacked a lot of flavor. Though it was fried, I had to smother the blandness with marinara. It was by no means horrible, and I had more than one, but I would order something else next time.

Priya and I split one of their specials (I’ve been a real sucker for specials lately), a spicy seafood pasta. The dish comprised of shrimp, clams, and scallops on angel hair pasta in a spicy red sauce. I was delighted to find out that the scallops were perfectly cooked, and the clams not too

Though we were way too full to order dessert, the waitress came around with chocolate covered cherries. Excited, I eagerly grabbed one, and dipped it generously into the whipped cream it came with. I was promptly disappointed, as the cherry was, in actuality, a maraschino cherry. I hate those things. They’re gross. A natural cherry covered in chocolate would have been a million times better. Apparently I was alone in this view, as most at the table had several.

Overall, I’d go to Ignotz’s for their entrees. I could not have asked for anything more in my seafood pasta, and the wine was superb. Whether for date night, or a group night out, Ignotz will get the job done. Though kind of in bufu, it’s worth the trip. Broaden your horizons, fellow Northsiders, and go.

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(K)new

This past weekend, some chicks and I ventured to (K)new (not sure what they’re getting at with the double entendre here) for Jamie’s birthday. I had been before; it’s a great BYOB spot that used to be called Think, and has been revamped by the same founders. The only problem with the place is its location, on the 2500 block of West Fullerton. Sure, parking isn’t a problem but if you’re planning on hailing a cab after the meal, I’d call one far before the end of your meal.

(K)new is small, but you don’t feel compact, and with warm colors the place is inviting, good for dates, as well as group dinners. Even with a table of 8 girls, we had plenty of room to breathe, which is generally not the case with most BYOBs.

Of course, being typical girls, we split everything…  Playing a game of puff puff give, we passed around firstly, the piquillo peppers that came with lump crabmeat, goat cheese, truffle oil, and a saffron and butter emulsion. Next came a pastry with tomato, buffalo, mozzarella, pancetta, prosciutto, and truffle oil, and I honestly have to say, God bless truffles. I notice (K)new uses them in a fair amount of their dishes, and while you could tell them to stop relying on truffles to make good dishes, I am not complaining. Keep the truffles coming, if you please.

My favorite dish of the night was the Cavatappi pasta, with lobster, shrimp, tomato, mascarpone cheese, and seasoned with mint, basil, garlic, and olive oil. I am sucker for mascarpone cheese, and this dish kind of put me in mind if what a reinvention of a macaroni and cheese would taste like. Definitely get this one if you go.

Finally we had the Fish of the Day, which turned out to be Halibut, and flavored very well with lots ‘o’ butter. Like truffle sauces, you can never have too much butter.

As we were on a deadline, (we had a surprise trolley picking us up for the b-day girl filled with all her favorite people), we unfortunately skipped dessert. However, I would definitely go back to Knew and give their desserts, and their other dishes I have not yet had, a try. I suggest you do the same. Heck, let’s go together.

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Petterino’s

As a Lettuce Entertain You Restaurant, I at least expected this place to be good. It wasn’t. Sorry for the lack of suspense here, but you hold a certain brand to a certain level, and you at least expect to be satisfied… No such luck. The place is typical, in that I’ve seen the setting a million times before. Dark polished wood, with clean white tablecloths, and black and white oldies pictures on the walls. All that is fine, and I can enjoy that feel, but just have good food to back up an unoriginal setup.

I have been trying to eat healthy lately (at least on the weekdays, since eating healthy on weekends is a laughable attempt), I took the liberty of ordering the salmon with a side of asparagus. Unfortunately, the menu failed to mention the fact that the salmon was served on top of spinach. Thanks, so now I have an abundance of greenery on my hands. This wouldn’t bother me so much if the food were good, I mean, the more for me to take home, right? However, the salmon was bland. I guess they’ve never heard of salt. However, they clearly had heard of oil, as my spinach was sopped in it. Though I toughened through it, it mostly remained untouched, and I grudgingly helped my Mom finish her cheese ravioli with marinara sauce (remember, I was trying to eat healthy here, and cheese ravioli is most certainly not).  My Mom and I split the Tiramisu (another healthy choice, good job me), and I was also able to try the Strawberry Tall Cake that my Mom’s friend, Alyce had.  They were both fine. Tiramisu needed more cocoa, and the Strawberry Tall Cake was a simple yellow cake with strawberries on the side. Both lacked originality and depth.

The only reason I can honestly say that Petterino’s is successful is due to the fact that it is smack in the middle of the theater district. I feel no need to go back. If I had no other choice, I would honestly rather go to the McDonalds across the street.

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Volare

I was more than a little concerned when I realized we hadn’t made reservations to Volare. I’ve been there twice before, and it’s always been packed, for good reason. Everything I have had here is great Italian.  They have a small patio in the summer, and intimate indoors, with the low ceiling is painted a bright blue Italian sky.

We sit down, and I immediately suggest the calamari, as I always try to have calamari at an Italian restaurant. So we have the calamari, and as usual, it’s great, not to mention a refreshing change, as it is served with cocktail sauce and horseradish, instead of the standard marinara. With a glass of vino in hand, and calamari in my tummy, I am a very happy girl.

We were on our way to see a movie which we were running late for, and the service was more than accommodating in allowing us to order everything at once, as well as serve it in a timely manner. I got the Cotoletta alla Milanese, which is breaded veal medallion that was served with tomatoes and potatoes. This sucked. It sucked so bad I had to eat half of my friends Scaloppine all Pizzaiola, which, by the way, was amazing. It’s another veal medallion, but this time sautéed with fresh tomatoes, capers, anchovies and some white wine.  I was legitimately sad I did not order this dish, or any other dish for that matter…

Points to Volare though, because upon viewing my full plate, the waitress straight-up asked me if I didn’t like it. I personally hate complaining in restaurants (before you protest, please see the movie Waiting, and then you’ll understand), and if I do, I try to do it in the nicest way possible. Therefore, in the nicest way possible, I said that no, I didn’t like it, but that I was more than happy with my calamari, and half of the other plate.  Our waitress promptly stated that we did not have to pay for the plate, which was great service, and more than made up for the fact that I didn’t like the dish. Stomachs happily full, we were able to make the movie on time. It was an overall pleasant experience at this restaurant for me, once again,

Aside from my unfortunate choice in entrees that evening, Volare is very, very good. I have no qualms going back, and will be happy to accompany anyone who wants to give it a try.

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Dominic’s – Los Angeles

I loved Dominic’s. And no, that’s not just because Justin Timberlake sat two feet away from our table. Or the fact that upon walking in, we saw Jay Leno eating in a corner booth. Or the fact that right behind our group walked in Ricki Lake (looking very svelte I might add). And definitely not just because my friend Priya’s too cute boyfriend sent the table a bottle of Champagne all the way from Chicago.  Sidenote: As we were making a well-deserved toast to Priya’s boyfriend, whose name is unfortunately Justin, Mr. Timberlake most definitely overheard and had to have thought we were toasting him. Mild mortification ensued…

While all of these celeb sightings were badass (well JT was anyway), Dominic’s itself can be great without all of that.  Even if my experience did not have all that outside entertainment, the food was great, as was the ambience. We sat in the back part of the restaurant, which would have been outdoors if it weren’t for the rainy weather the one weekend we were in LA, but it was charming nonetheless. So in a well-ventilated indoor tent of sorts, you still get the outside feel with a brick floor, and lighted trees scattered about the room.

We ordered, for appetizer, the Beef Carpaccio, that had crispy artichokes, Parmesan, and balsamic vinegar, which was pretty good, though I kind of choked on the crispy artichokes.

Priya and I split the entrée, Whitefish Picatta, after confirming with Jess that this was a good dish to get. It came with no sides, but I was more than happy to fill myself on this delectable fish. You just can’t get fresh fish like this in Chicago… Que lastima!

Though Jess was right in that you want to go to Dominic’s more for the scene than the food, I really enjoyed the whitefish there, and would go back, no question. This is especially considering that since it’s so frequented by celebs, I may get lucky and meet my soul mate, Sam Worthington there…

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Il Mulino

Eggplant Rollatine

Herb Roasted Chicken

Caprese Salad

It’s Monday, and I just experienced a “weekend of letdowns,” as my friend Jamie so eloquently put it. For me, her comment is relevant in the food department as I had a breakfast and a dinner that were, indeed, letdowns. Happily, restaurant week has begun. Unhappily, my first restaurant week experience was, well, unhappy. It started out well enough, as we pull up in front of Il Mulino, take in its exterior beauty, walk in, take in its interior beauty, and sit. Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from the word “sit.” While I thought the service level was harmless, if not pretty good, my friend Erica quickly dubbed our waiters “twins.” After that comparison, which she made pretty early on, I couldn’t help but see her point. Upon seating, we were immediately accosted with Parmesan cheese that was cut in front of us by one of the said “twins.” Throughout the evening, one twin would pop up every once in a while to refill our wine glass or with mutterings of “fresh ground pepper,” and the other was soon to follow 5 minutes later with similar well-meaning, if annoying, intentions. In sum, I would say the service was good, but awkward as hell, which is why I belabor the point.

On to the food… As young, twenty-something up and comers, we of course were doing the “prix fixe” menu (it is restaurant week after all), and split a bottle of Campo San Vito Valpolicella Red 2006. This wine is decent, but if it were just a tad bit dryer, I’d deem it solid. Slightly sweet for my taste in red wines, but good enough.

For the sake of this blog, my friends all magnanimously agreed to order different entrees of the menu so that I might try everything. Little did I know that there would be not one thing worth trying. I had the caprese salad, and instantly regretted that decision upon tasting their Eggplant Rollatine. With rolled eggplant stuffed with ricotta cheese, baked in a light vodka sauce, topped with melted mozzarella and served with spinach it was infinitely better than the tasteless tomato, hunk of cheese, and leaf on my plate. For entrees, I tried the Grilled Salmon, the Herb Roasted Chicken, the Veal Piccatta, and their Ravioli Procini, and each time my response was blah, blah, blah and blah. There really isn’t anything more to say. They were tasteless. Much like my caprese salad, everything was just bland. Everything lacked flavor. Letdown.

Dessert was equally disappointing. The so-called “cheesecake” was more of a Tres-Leches cake with some almond flavoring thrown in. It completely lacked the thick, creamy consistency that makes a cheesecake a cheesecake, and instead I consumed a wet, mealy, mushy mess that would not have been half so bad if it wasn’t mislabeled an effing cheesecake.

So, unless you like awkwardly good service, tasteless entrees, and desserts with identity crises, I’d say skip Il Mulino. I mean, come on, everyone involved agreed that the Parmesan cheese was the highlight of our meal… What does that say to you?

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