A Recent Favorite | Chicago | Italian09 Dec 2019 05:07 pm

This BYOB gem features great Italian cooking with a Spanish influence.

Let’s start with their carbonara – al dente pasta with a light pancetta sauce which sticks beautifully to the bronze cut pasta. The fried calamari is lightly breaded – just as good as any I had in Cagliari (town in Sardinia). The lasagna was light with a rich tomato sauce (reminded us of the Cinque Terra lasagna). The broiled shrimp with side Caesar Salad was also a hit (get the double portion of shrimp for two to share). The $10 Caesar Salad is worth the visit.

Owner Vittorio is the chef and he knows what he is doing.

Don’t be fooled by this obscure spot near Lawrence and Western – in my opinion their quality meets even Spiagia standards at very affordable prices.

5019 North Western Avenue

Street parking – no valet

Chicago, IL 60626

773-561-8442

WWW.imonellichicago.com

A Recent Favorite | Chicago | Illinois | Mexican12 Nov 2019 11:24 am

A five star restaurant with two star prices – Carmen and Veronica have created a truly gourmet experience – every dish created here is almost perfect.

Having discovered their new restaurant just months ago, we have become frequent diners and hosted a birthday party for 25 guests in September (what a success).

The variety of choices is a surprise – especially since all dishes are perfectly seasoned and run the full gamut from vegan to carnivore. Carmen does an excellent job with all seafood – try the shrimp fajitas as well as the skirt steak and shrimp combination. The half chicken roasted on a wood plank with sweet potatoes fries on the side exceeds any roast chicken entrees at the upscale French restaurants – and it’s perfectly seared with a crispy skin. Choose the house salad or soup of the day as your starter (when they have fava bean soup go for it).  The Caldo Marino (seafood in a natural broth) is also a must try.

You get the point – I love this place.

BYOB

5750 North California Avenue

Chicago, IL

(West Rogers Park near intersection of California and Lincoln Avenue)

Closed on Mondays

(872)208-5842

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 | 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

 

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

Chicago | Illinois10 Dec 2013 12:57 pm

Michael Kornick, chef/owner of MK the restaurant on Franklin Street, hosted a tasting menu last night at a benefit for the Lake Street location of Inspiration Kitchens. The Inspiration Corporation offers cooking and food service training at this and an Uptown location, as well as operating a soup kitchen type sit-down restaurant in Uptown where clients are served with respect and choose menu items of their liking. Michael started sponsoring this organization over 20 years ago and continues to pay back to the restaurant community by helping provide a training ground which creates jobs and assists students in arranging housing, completing the course work, and eventually being hired as line chefs and servers in some of Chicago’s finest restaurants.

Now to the tasting menu.

The appetizers of chicken liver pate and cornichon (mild and flavorful pate which was not over-powering), butternut squash soup served in a small glass with chive, cumin and chili oil (drinking it out of the glass pronounced the chili oil flavors), and salmon tar tare with capers, tarragon and fennel were all surprising (as most of MK’s cooking).

Wild & seasonal mushroom pot pie with rosemary and thyme with a flaky top crust was complex and tasty – salt did not mask the gentle flavors of the various fungi.

The warm goat cheese salad included caramelized shallots and marcona (Spanish) almonds. The goat cheese was rolled into a ball, and rolled on to crushed almonds and toasted/baked for 4 minutes at 350 deg F (I will try this myself).

The main course of smoked & roasted Berkshire pork loin was seasoned with cinnamon and brown sugar and smoked at Micheal’s County BBQ restaurant on Taylor Street, then roasted on site on Lake Street. The loin was served with granny smith baked apple, savoy cabbage, prune and stone ground mustard. I will definitely try the cinnamon and brown sugar flavors on my next pork tenderloin and remember to cook it less well done. This dish has an Alsace influence  – the chef’s 1984 visit to the Alsace region brought this to his repertoire. In fact all of the dishes on the tasting menu were influenced by his travels between 1982 and 1985.

The pecan caramel tartlet with creme fraiche was recently on his County BBQ menu (only taken off recently because of a new local partnership with a pie baker). His policy is to not offer any item on his current restaurant menus at such events – he is always looking for new tastes to offer his lucky patrons.

Conclusion: thanks, Michael for such a wonderful evening. Also thanks for trying my 2012 CA Syrah (and not commenting after you tasted it – I am assuming the best).

Inspiration Kitchens
3504 West Lake Street
Chicago, IL 60624
(773) 801-1110
http://www.inspirationkitchens.org

Chicago | Illinois | Italian30 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.

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