A Recent Favorite | Chicago | Illinois | Italian16 Apr 2018 10:30 am

Classic Italian restaurant. Watch out for their monster portions! Insist on good service and don’t be talked into appetizers galore.
$$

1500 Taylor Street
an old Italian neighborhood now taken over by the University of Illinois at Chicago campus (UIC)
(312) 942-1117

Recent visit was great – had the pasta fagioli  (bean and pasta soup) with bread and olive oil and grated cheese, followed by the most delicious Italian sausage appetizer with sweet peppers and garlic. The appetizer is really big enough for two to share.

A Recent Favorite | Chicago | Illinois | Italian14 Apr 2018 11:36 am

This true/authentic Italian restaurant opened a few years ago and continues to excel on all fronts. The small (and sometimes noisy) place always presents their seasonal menu with extensive choices (I counted at least 10 appetizers) with a half dozen or so pastas and eight entrees. There are usually 2 or 3 fish choices besides calamari, and mussels are creatively  prepared with changing ingredients. You can occasionally find squid ink pasta and gnocchi variations. Pasta is always prepared al dente, wine choices reasonable (quartinos are served and thus fair pours), and staff is efficient and friendly.

5316 North Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60640

(In the upscale far North side Edgewater neighborhood – ParkChicago metered street parking)

773-506-9990

 

A Recent Favorite | Chicago | French | Illinois13 Apr 2018 08:01 am

Bistro Campagne, by the prior owner of Campagnola in Evanston, was an instant success in the NW Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Village. Why it took us so long to try it out is now a puzzle.

The place is French country style in every detail, and the food a cut above. Sharing an onion gratin and steamed mussels was our first step. Several good wine choices by the glass are available and reasonable. Bread served is among the best – crusty French bread served in a partial waxed paper wrap to keep it fresh – most restaurants can learn from this presentation. The French farming tradition was well served by the large glob of real butter.

I tried the wild boar stew served on buttered noodles – the flavors were blended to bring out the mildly distinct flavor of the boar – but admittedly this boar must have had an easy time in the wild. My guests had the pork chop and lamb entrees – the pork raved about but the lamb dish’s only complaint was too many onions (next time the diner should review the ingredients listed on the menu and see if variations are possible).

A shared dessert was very good but I forgot what we had.

$$ to $$$ depending on wine

4518 North Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 271-6100

Subsequent visits in 2017 confirm consistency of this great place.

A Recent Favorite | Indiana | 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

(219)659-4444

 

A Recent Favorite | 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

BYOB

A Recent Favorite | Chicago | Illinois | Italian | Melanzane05 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

(773)267-0888

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

(773)271-7782

 

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).

Lillian’s

1148 Soquel Ave.

Santa Cruz, CA 95062

(831)425-2288

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

NO WINES WERE MADE IN 2017 – TAKING A BREAK.

 

 

Enjoy wine and drink responsibly.

Chicago | Illinois | Main26 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

(773)856-3486