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



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 | 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


Italian | San Francisco | Tony's Top Ten05 Dec 2013 09:37 am

This one makes my Top Ten!

Chef/Owner Sergio Giusti brings his home cooking knowledge from a small town near Firenze – and his food is some of the best Italian food I have eaten outside of Italy. He spent time in Chicago for years and knows all of the better Chicago Italian restaurants and their chefs (La Scarola, Piccolo Sogno, Bruna’s, Coco Pazzo, etc.) – I am sorry he left Chicago!

This small, noisy restaurant in a happening part of San Francisco (you definitely need a reservation most nights) has an exciting ambiance (more like a New York spot) – but why not go where the in-crowd goes? One of his specialties is gnocchi with a light cream tomato sauce – the gnocchi melt in your mouth. The roast chicken is perfectly prepared with the right spices and tenderness. The Veal Saltimbocca Alla Romano was tender with just the right amount of prosciutto and fontina cheese.

Salt alert: none needed here – Sergio does not mask the flavor of his cooking with too much salt – what a concept.

Next time I will have the Malanzane Alla Leonardo Da Vinci – my quest for the best Malanzane continues.

Wine list is thorough but not ridiculous; nice Barbera de Alba and Dolcetta de Alba choices along with other great Italian wines.

Also, the prices are very reasonable.

1429 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 392-8585
Firenze by Night website

Chicago | Illinois | Italian | Tony's Top Ten30 Aug 2013 12:00 pm

Still one of the best restaurants in Chicago – last visit was wonderful with pasta tasting menu to accommodate my fish allergies although seafood fest was in full swing – but other 3 diners enjoyed the standard seafood themed dishes. Wine choices are of course exhaustive and somewhat pricey (but this is a heavy-hitter kind of a place); nevertheless, I did some homework and found a wonderful Gattinara (my fondness for friends in Alba near this wine region makes it  special for me) and Barolo by the glass.

Service was more than excellent, timing was perfect from 730 to 1100 pm (we were celebrating), and everyone in the place is professional.

Our favorite for special occasions; also try the cafe’.
The tasting menu in the cafe’- with truffles (when in season) and selected wines – is a must.

One Magnificent Mile
980 North Michigan Avenue, Second Level
Chicago, Illinois 60611
(312) 280-2750

Southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street

Their web site has information about their specialty dishes, as well as excerpts of other reviews of the restaurant.

Cedar Rapids | Iowa | Tony's Top Ten01 Aug 2006 09:51 pm

OK, so I am having an omnivore’s dilemma after reading Michael Pollan’s book (of same title). So why not have pork tenderloin in Iowa where (maybe) the pig lived (& died). Get your food close to the point of production. Kidding aside, he raises some interesting dilemmas and makes you think just a little bit more about the lunacy of the food systems we use on a daily basis.

But back to the review of this 20+ year old restaurant. I remember the very best pork tenderloin, grilled to perfection, when I used to come to Cedar Rapids years ago on business. They haven’t lost their touch. The medium well slab of meat was perfetcly grilled – moist yet charred just enough. Salad was ok, and wine choices fair. A loaf of crusty white bread starts you out, with a honey butter that compliments the crust – tear the bread apart to enjoy the crust – keep that knife away – save it for the meat. Wine choices are limited but adequate. A Santa Barbara pinot noir and a Napa cabernet sauvignon worked well with the salad & entree. Side of vegetable medley was steamed (and not overcooked – wow). This is generally a place for the well healed – lot’s of talk about money all around me. This is a very comfortable, quiet, low noise place; please don’t forget to take your cell phones outside for calls if you must – I was impressed that the only cell phone which rung during my visit was mine. How impolite.

3847 1st Ave SE

Cedar Rapids, IA


Chicago | Illinois | Italian | Melanzane | Tony's Top Ten11 May 2005 08:02 pm

Look out – you have some new converts. Our first visit to La Scarola was on a late Monday evening thinking the wait would be short. Guess we didn’t time things quite right, though the pleasant wait staff (and bartender) made waiting almost a pleasure. A good selection of reds by the glass helped pass the time.

Though the place has been around for awhile, for some reason we resisted this near north west side gem. Our starter was sausage and peppers served with good artisan bread and the usual butter, olive oil, grated cheese and red pepper sides. I like the options though tend to shy away from some of the fats whenever possible. I’ll take my fats in the sausage!

The egg plant parmagiana was a knock out – on a par with Donatella’s. Rigatoni pasta (al dente – amen!) with broccoli and goat cheese tossed with shallots and garlic was delicious with subtle flavors combined to make a memorable dish. A thrown-in side of linguini with vegetable red sauce was taken home – and it too was al dente enough to be edible the next day; what a deal.

The place is a bit cramped – but everyone is smiling and friendly. It was a pleasure to enjoy the experience with no pressing time constraint.

Next time will look at the wine list, and try a meat dish to satisfy my hunter instincts. There is a sharing charge which I don’t approve of in these days of weight watching and portion awareness.


721 West Grand Ave. (just east of Milwaukee and Halsted)
Chicago, IL 60610

$5 valet parking (let’s hope it stays that cheap)
(312) 243-1740

Champaign | Illinois | Italian | Tony's Top Ten28 Apr 2004 08:47 pm

Our second dinner (and later lunch and brunch – couldn’t get enough of this place) during the Ebert Overlooked Film Festival brought us to this cutely named place – our first impression of the name wasn’t very positive. Well, well – what a pleasant surprise. Sitting at the bar for dinner on a Friday night couldn’t have been more fun – Champaign locals are interesting and low key, and proud of their town.

My Chicken Gordon Bleu, with lots of extra sauteed vegetables, was nicely prepared in the Milanese style. My guest’s fish entree with vegetables was also delicious. All entrees are really large enough to share. The lunch menu was also varied but had few protein-only items. Brunch offered exceptional omelettes.
This is our favorite place in Champaign.

Wines by the glass were well priced, and the wine list adequate, though we didn’t really peruse the entire list.


114 West Church
Champaign, IL 61820
near the Amtrak Station
(217) 359-7377

opened in 1983

Italian | Ontario, Canada | Tony's Top Ten11 Dec 2003 02:58 pm

March 2005 update:

OK, how do you resist the risotto porcini with parmagianno cheese wheel (about 30″ diamater and 8″ high) – the cooked risotto/porcini creation (made on the first day of creation I assume – it’s real good), is ladled into the hollowed-out cheese wheel where generous amounts of cheese are shaved off and blended together with the creation. The end result is an even better creation (I’m getting religious – sorry). The Dolcetta d’ Alba was the perfect compliment. I will go back if for this specialty alone.

A wonderful Italian place with Parma cheese wheel offerings if you make a special request to Fausto Di Berardino.

Italian | Kansas City | Missouri | Tony's Top Ten30 Oct 2003 06:13 pm

A gritty location but special food – new scattered site housing good to see.
One of several locations, but the original – reopening January 2004 after a fire.


526 Harrison
Kansas City MO
(816) 221-2455