Indiana | Tony's Top Ten | Whiting22 Dec 2017 05:26 pm

This Whiting, Indiana spot is one of my favorites. An extensive menu is the first surprise, followed by wonderful cooking and attentive staff. The location in the industrial town of Whiting may too come as a surprise, but it is readily accessible from the Chicago Skyway by exiting at Indianapolis Blvd. and driving south.

Meat dishes are impressive and pastas great. Daily specials may include a rack of pork chop (looked great – maybe next time). Fair wine pours also priced reasonably.

This town sponsors the annual pirogi fest in August – check it out.

This is a gem of a town right on Lake Michigan – worth the trip for the views!


1872 Indianapolis Blvd.

Whiting, IN 46394-1347



Illinois | Lincolnwood | Mexican11 Apr 2017 10:24 pm

Our visit on April 10, 2017 confirmed that Wholly Frijoles continues to offer some of the best Mexican food in the Chicago land area. This week’s special mixed meat and seafood grill included shrimp, skirt steak, chorizo,  salmon, chicken and vegetables along with the usual guacamole, pinto beans and rice with tortillas – WOW! reservations are not accepted, but you can call to be placed on their waiting list at dinner time – it is worth the wait.

Family owned by an ex-Lettuce Entertain You employee, this is a special place. It’s BYOB.

I decided to check the place out in October 2004 since they expanded – the quality remains well above average and the dishes are well prepared/creative. Since I was dining alone, I have stocked numerous half-bottles of good red wine for just such occasions – the meals here are worthy of good wine.

My favorite is their chicken specialty of the house which is served with mashed potatoes – carbs are worth it here! The person at an adjoining table was a chef and was there to check it out as well – looks like the restaurant’s name is getting around. This is also the perfect place for a small get together or celebration. The service is personal but not pushy – so far I know no waitperson’s name (hope they keep it that way – they usually don’t want to see my family videos or photos either).

Anyway, give this place a try – we need to keep it a successful family business.

3908 West Touhy Ave.

Lincolnwood, IL
(847) 329-9810


Chicago | Illinois | Italian | Melanzane | Tony's Top Ten05 Apr 2017 09:07 am

An Italian gem – varied and extensive menu, great bread, great service and reasonable wine choices with fair pours.

The house salad (enough to share) with balsamic dressing and pecans was fresh – no wilted greens here! The melanzane appetizer was  lightly breaded and topped with just the right amount of tomatoes, garlic, oil and mozzarella. The egg noodle carbonara was one of the best I’ve ever had – I tend to large portions with plenty of cream sauce and pancetta (definitely should have been a shared entree). The grilled octopus with balsamic was OK but tough (not usually a fan but decided to try it so I may not be best judge). Can’t wait to go back and make this one of my regular haunts (this place originally opened years ago on Peterson Avenue and at the time was noted as a real cut above the usual area restaurants – don’t know why I stopped frequenting this place but I’m back).

Via Veneto

6340 North Lincoln Avenue

Chicago, IL 60659


Street parking and at adjacent medical building evenings and Sunday

open 7 days


Chicago | Illinois | Italian08 Jan 2017 12:00 pm

This Andersonville spot boasts an extensive menu with good cooking – and portion sizes easy to share. Bread plate and salads that accompany entrees will convince you to forego appetizers. Always daily specials including wines. Wait staff is attentive and table busing impressive (but you may have to slow down plate removal – ask to wait until all in your party have finished eating); pasta entrees usually justify a take home container.

Many thumbs up for this landmark restaurant in a trendy neighborhood.

Free parking across the street next to the bakery.

Calo Restaurant

5343 North Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60640



California | San Rafael | Thai01 Nov 2016 09:15 am

A great Thai restaurant that really stands out – owner is a transplant from Chicago and this place gets it right.

Dishes are special – the combination $15 appetizer is worth the visit and enough for four. Seafood curry, Pad Thai, chicken broccoli and bacon wrapped shrimp were all great. Beverage prices are adequate and fairly priced.

Thai Aroi-Dee

1518 Fourth Street

San Rafael, CA 94901


Open for lunch every day 11am – 3pm

Dinner from 5pm to 9pm (10pm Friday & Saturday)

California | Italian | Santa Cruz01 Nov 2016 08:43 am

Gem of authenticity with owners from New York with Sicilian background.

Wow! The Sunday Gravy which took hours to prepare was the perfect Bolognese style pasta sauce (though the word sauce does not give this thick and luscious staple of good cooking any justice). Pat Bruno’s recipe from one of the Chicago newspapers has been attempted in Chicago several times with some success and Lillian’s comes in close.

Appetizers are well prepared; try their gnocchi (they melt in your mouth)! Bread is perfect and wine choices adequate and fairly priced.

Location is great with plenty of parking nearby (and away from the hustle and bustle of “downtown” Santa Cruz and the waterfront).


1148 Soquel Ave.

Santa Cruz, CA 95062


Closed Monday

Open 4 to 9 pm (Sat & Sun until 10 pm)



Winemaking23 Sep 2016 05:35 pm

I started making red wine back in 2005, and I thought I would summarize my red wine vintages to date (all Regina California Juice purchased in 20-liter batches from Santa Fe Distributors at 35th and Racine in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago). I added whites at the end as I will try another white for 2016.

#1 Red -2005  “California Burgundy” (I have no idea what the actual grapes were – you are not supposed to use the French name – I mistakenly thought it was Pinot Noir)

#2 Red 2006 Pinot Noir

#3 Red 2007 Zinful Pinot Noir (a blend)

#4 Red 2008 Myratage (Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot)

#5 Red 2009 Southern Rhone style blend (Syrah & Granache)

#6 Red 2010 Zinfandel

#7 Red 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

#8 Red 2012 Syrah

#9 Red 2013 Tony’s Super Tuscan Blend (50% Merlot & 25% Sangiovese & 25% Syrah)

#10 Red 2014 Merlot

#11 Red 2014 Red Blend (75% Merlot & 25% Sangiovese)

#12 Red 2015 Dark Red Blend (Zinfandel & Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah)

#13 Red 2015 Pinot Noir

#14 Red 2016 Red Blend (67% Syrah and 33% Valdapenas – name given to Tempranillo in USA)

#4 White 2016  Sauvignon Blanc

#3 White 2008 Pinot Grigio

#2 White 2007 Sauvignon Blanc

#1 White 2006 Chardonnay



Enjoy wine and drink responsibly.

Chicago | Illinois | Main | Tony's Top Ten26 Mar 2015 07:32 pm

This East Rogers Park spot brings sophisticated tapas to a  restaurant desert – not too much around except the spots on Granville and of course The Waterfront Cafe in the summer. But this place deserves a top rating using any criteria you can think of (like great food freshly prepared, reasonable prices, and an upbeat atmosphere).

The tapas we have tried (and loved unless a comment is made below) include:

  • Gorgonzola mushroom sauce over corn cake
  • Brussels Sprouts sauteed with dried cherries and bacon with balsamic glaze
  • Jalapeno Gnocchi ( light as a feather)
  • Twisted eggplant (this is one of my favorites)
  • Chicken meatballs (a little dry but tasty)
  • Stuffed mushrooms with Monterrey Jack, spinach and tomato sauce
  • Stuffed chicken breast
  • Chicken and potato curry (another favorite)
  • Grilled beef skewer (tender and juicy, cooked to perfection)
  • Beef tenderloin with blue cheese sauce (scrumptious)
  • Spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette, tomatoes, red onion and feta
  • Beet salad
  • Salmon with Panko crust with tomato tapanade


Wine and beer choices are sufficient (try the German Riesling and California Meritage, and the stout)

Parking can be an issue, but a little bit of patience always works – and be careful to observe the non-parking areas between the 4-6 PM rush hour.

You can look on Facebook for special deals.

1146 West Pratt Boulevard

Chicago, IL 60626

(In the Loyola University neighborhood)

Closed Mondays


BBQ | Chicago | Illinois10 Oct 2014 01:58 pm

The absolute best authentic BBQ in Chicago – and maybe in North America.

This small spot on Chicago’s far North side has been around for only a few years, but from the very start they have offered BBQ smoked in a vintage smoker on the premises. Choices included beef brisket, pulled chicken and pork, pork ribs, and sausage links – large and small plates are available with two half portions of two of the meat choices. Four types of BBQ sauces are made on the premises and available for purchase. Nice salad large enough to share is a good choice to go along with the meat(s); sides include potato chips and cole slaw (even cornbread to go along with the honey on the table). This is a BYOB spot – but their soft drinks and iced tea come with free refills. Be prepared to sit on tables or picnic benches – the place is jumpin’ on weekends so be prepared to wait. Takeout is also a big part of their business. Park on Western Avenue and don’t forget to feed the meter.

If you like BBQ – you will love this place. Michael Pollan would be proud of this place (check out his discussion of BBQ methods in the USA in his book “COOKED”).

6954 North Western Avenue

Chicago, IL 60645


Kenosha | Wisconsin24 Aug 2014 04:32 pm

Owner Susan Mantuano-Tishuk (of the Mantuano/Spiaggia family) has recently updated their menu and brought the chef from Terzo Piano (at the Chicago Art Institute) to Kenosha. Wow – food better than I remember (have been coming here over the past ten years) – and now many different twists. Read on.

OK, let’s start with focacia bread and rich, flavorful olive oil, and a glass of wine (enough choices by the glass – all Italian but today a special Spanish white that was recommended with sea food entrees). Fairly extensive bottled wine and beer list.

Appetizers and salads are big enough to share (had tomato/caprese/crouton appetizer with just the right amount of oil and seasoning).

My entree was papperdelle pasta with braised lamb and lima beans with a peppery sauce – great combination with very slowly braised (tender) meat. My partner had the hanger steak with smashed new potatoes which were fried – yum yum! The steak was perfectly prepared. Our other diners enjoyed the crisp chicken (for only $18) and linguine with clams. Crisp chicken seems to be a new standard dish at many Italian restaurants – a good move.

Really good Italian coffee and shared biscotti and karmel korn soft serve (yes, that’s what I said) ended the delightful meal.

Next time we’ll try their wood fired oven thin crust pizza – each selection a little out of the ordinary.

A great stop if you are visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum on your way back to Chicago. The restaurant is a little over an hour away from Rogers Park.

5717 Sheridan Road
Kenosha, WI 53140


(Prices would be doubled if this place was anywhere near Chicago.)