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Where to take Guests for an "Italian" Meal

Where to take Guests for an "Italian" Meal
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  • Where to take Guests for an "Italian" Meal

    Post #1 - May 5th, 2005, 10:24 am
    Post #1 - May 5th, 2005, 10:24 am Post #1 - May 5th, 2005, 10:24 am
    I've got a couple of friends coming in this weekend for a visit. I told them that I would take them to a Chicago style neighborhood Italian Restaurant that might be off the radar of the tour guides. Right now, I'm trying to decide between Bruna's, La Luce and La Scarola. I'd be glad to hear people's opinions on which of these places would be better for a visitor to get a uniuque Chicago experience. I'd also like to hear if you think maybe I should be taking them somewhere else. One of the criteria is that the place should have a "certain ambiance", thus ruling out places like Spiaggia, which is too sterile, well known and not "neighborhoody" enough.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #2 - May 5th, 2005, 10:35 am
    Post #2 - May 5th, 2005, 10:35 am Post #2 - May 5th, 2005, 10:35 am
    Steve,

    Let me be the first, of I'm sure many, to suggest Sabatino's , though Bruna's is an excellent choice as well.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #3 - May 5th, 2005, 10:56 am
    Post #3 - May 5th, 2005, 10:56 am Post #3 - May 5th, 2005, 10:56 am
    Of the three that you suggested, I'd go with La Scarola. Good food, big portions, and I think neighborhoody. The best feature of La Scarola is the true Chicago, shot-and-a-beer bar next door...Rocky's where you go before and after.
  • Post #4 - May 5th, 2005, 11:29 am
    Post #4 - May 5th, 2005, 11:29 am Post #4 - May 5th, 2005, 11:29 am
    I'm a real sucker for Tufano's, although when I went a few weeks ago, it was not *quite* as good as always. Still, the progression of antipasto salad, cavetelli with red sauce and lemon chicken makes for both a Chicago and Italian experience.

    I'm pretty keen on Salerno's, although it gets little pub on this board. I actually like the Berwyn location slightly more than Chicago, but I doubt that is where you'll wanna sclep. The Grand location can be pretty grand though.

    Another place that I love, that gets NO notice (it seems) is Bertucci's on 24th Street in Chinatown, a true neighborhood restaurant. Great dishes with rapini.

    I'm hungry now!

    Rob
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #5 - May 5th, 2005, 11:32 am
    Post #5 - May 5th, 2005, 11:32 am Post #5 - May 5th, 2005, 11:32 am
    Stevez,

    I almost never go out for Italian because I make it at home so often, but during an Italian Immersion experience a few weeks back, some old-timers were extolling the virtues of Ristorante Agostino, which I sense is an old school place with a lot of the traditional favorites done well.

    Ristorante Agostino
    2817 N. Harlem Ave.
    773-745-6464
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #6 - May 5th, 2005, 11:57 am
    Post #6 - May 5th, 2005, 11:57 am Post #6 - May 5th, 2005, 11:57 am
    I've got to go with Gennaro's. I was at Tufano's last night, and it's OK, but for old school Italian with a unique brusque atmosphere, I don't think you can top Gennaro's, with John Gennaro behind the bar buzzing you in.

    Bruna's is a good one as well. Both restaurants are over 50 years old.
  • Post #7 - May 5th, 2005, 12:14 pm
    Post #7 - May 5th, 2005, 12:14 pm Post #7 - May 5th, 2005, 12:14 pm
    stevez wrote:Right now, I'm trying to decide between Bruna's, La Luce and La Scarola.


    Of those three, based on your criteria, I'd choose Bruna's in a heartbeat. The experience of S. Oakley is unique, historic, and charming and the feeling runs all the way into Bruna's back dining room. I've always enjoyed the straight-forward food there, especially their Portabella ala Bruna, Eggplant Parm., or Carbonara.

    I've sent quite a few co-workers who are new to Chicago to Bruna's and they always come back and thank me.

    It's definitely my go-to place for simple Italian-American.

    More Bruna's here

    Best,
    Michael / EC
  • Post #8 - May 5th, 2005, 1:05 pm
    Post #8 - May 5th, 2005, 1:05 pm Post #8 - May 5th, 2005, 1:05 pm
    I had an interesting meal last week (great food, middling service) at a relatively new neighborhood Italian - Uno di Martino - 2122 W. Lawrence. It's BYOB, which I like, and it's run by a couple of brothers who spent a lot of time with the Mia Francesca group. It's an odd space though - apparently it used to be a medieval castle-type place, you enter through a cave-like hallway, there are still a few Olde English things on the wall of the foyer, and the main dining room is cavernous. It's also fairly noisy, but some people like those things. Probably not a true neighborhood Italian ambiance, but the food was good.

    Also, FWIW, I like the old-time Italian ambiance at La Luce.
  • Post #9 - May 5th, 2005, 1:25 pm
    Post #9 - May 5th, 2005, 1:25 pm Post #9 - May 5th, 2005, 1:25 pm
    As mentioned before, I'm not a fan of Bruna's though the atmosphere and the neighborhood are great and maybe I just hit a bad menu item or a bad night in the kitchen. I've been more recently to Ristorante Agostino and had one of the finest Italian meals I've had in Chicago. It's not a long menu, but the quality of the ingredients and the care in the cooking really stand out. They serve a complementary tray of fruit at the end of the meal, whether or not you order coffee or dessert, and the honeydew that was on ours was as sweet as any I've ever had.
    That being said, and notwithstanding the fact that the men at the next table were speaking Italian, I don't think it has much in the atmosphere department. I'll put in another vote for Sabatino's, with the disclaimer that I've never been but trust my son's repeatedpraise for it.
  • Post #10 - May 5th, 2005, 4:21 pm
    Post #10 - May 5th, 2005, 4:21 pm Post #10 - May 5th, 2005, 4:21 pm
    Bruna's is a great restaurant in a neat little neighborhood that seems stuck in the past, in a good way. I have been there maybe dozens of times. It is overwhelmingly good. My out of town guests have loved it. Of course, Sabatino's. La Scarola has a lot of energy and it's closer to the "action" for out of towners, but I don't get excited about it the way others do.

    The bar next door is Richard's.
  • Post #11 - May 6th, 2005, 8:44 am
    Post #11 - May 6th, 2005, 8:44 am Post #11 - May 6th, 2005, 8:44 am
    Club Lago is nice and neighborhoody... pretty good food...

    The place looks like its right out of a mobster movie... actually there was a movie shot there (Mad Dog and Glory)..


    its at Superior/Orleans
  • Post #12 - May 6th, 2005, 9:21 am
    Post #12 - May 6th, 2005, 9:21 am Post #12 - May 6th, 2005, 9:21 am
    Thanks all! Even though I like Sabatino's well enough, I'm looking for something a bit more out of the neighborhood (I live pretty close to Sabitino's). I have settled on Bruna's. Thanks for all the other suggestions.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #13 - May 9th, 2005, 12:27 am
    Post #13 - May 9th, 2005, 12:27 am Post #13 - May 9th, 2005, 12:27 am
    I know I am too late...I have not tried any place mentioned but Tufano's. Certainly that is influenced by the fact that my dad lived literally right across the street from Tufano's in grade school and what was once Dad's house was bulldozed into what is now the UIC Pavillion parking lot. They moved to Foster & Cumberland after that where he met my mom.

    Dad goes back often, more than as we do as a family. It is sad that the cavatelli was taken off the menu when Grandama Tufano passed, they tried to make it after, but it was never as good and as such has disappeared off the menu permanently.

    But all the rest of the menu is so, so good...we love it...

    My uncle is an architect and interior designer, he redid Tufano's when they expanded 10-15 years ago. He does a lot of Chicago restaurants' design. I see him as legendary and famous as far as design, but what else could I say about my Godfather? I'd love to give details, but I also want to remain unbiased as food is more important then decor, right? :) Ask and perhaps I shall tell!

    Christine
  • Post #14 - May 10th, 2005, 9:34 am
    Post #14 - May 10th, 2005, 9:34 am Post #14 - May 10th, 2005, 9:34 am
    Joey, the owner at Tufanos, is the finest greeter and seater in the business. Stick with the best on the board, chicken piccante, pork chops and pepers, eggplant and salad and you cannot go wrong.
  • Post #15 - May 10th, 2005, 9:50 am
    Post #15 - May 10th, 2005, 9:50 am Post #15 - May 10th, 2005, 9:50 am
    I think Tufano's is a good place to go for a get together with a group and have a family style meal, but I wouldn't go there specifically for any of their dishes. Gennaro's, Capri, Bruna's and a host of others make far superior food- I'm not saying I think Tufano's is bad, and I've had some good times there, but the food is average.
  • Post #16 - October 18th, 2005, 7:48 pm
    Post #16 - October 18th, 2005, 7:48 pm Post #16 - October 18th, 2005, 7:48 pm
    It started back during the football season of 1985, the year of 'Da Bears'. I had 4 season tix on the 40, and increasingly as the team began catching on to the nation, some of my clients knew I had tickets and wanted to fly in for the Sunday games. Invariably, when it was time to eat, I'd ask them if they wanted Italian, they said sure and we headed to Bruna's.

    It didn't matter whether it was the night before and we were all dressed up, heading to the 95th at the Hancock for a nightcap afterwards, or we were coming straight from the game, half in the bag and in football jerseys. Luciano accepted us all. And EVERY time, these people from Columbus or Tampa or Indy would say, 'where has THIS place been all my life?!' My brother lives in the North End of Boston, the oldest Italian neighborhood in the country, and he & I have decided that no place there can touch Bruna's.

    For 20+ years now (probably 70+, the place has been open since '33), the mussels marinara have killed. Fried calamari best in the city. And that wonderful piping-hot stracciatella, that egg and spinach soup with added parmesan & ground pepper, was enough to make you sweat. My favorite entrees over the years have been penne puttanesca and the chicken vesuvio. Those two dishes at Bruna's are the best anywhere, and I've had puttanesca all over the US, and vesuvio all over Chicago, because the dish was invented here & is just about unknown anywhere else.

    And the atmosphere--come on, it's classic. When I'm meeting someone there, I arrive a half-hour early just to sip a glass of wine at the bar & let it soak in.
  • Post #17 - October 18th, 2005, 8:11 pm
    Post #17 - October 18th, 2005, 8:11 pm Post #17 - October 18th, 2005, 8:11 pm
    saps wrote:I think Tufano's is a good place to go for a get together with a group and have a family style meal, but I wouldn't go there specifically for any of their dishes.

    Saps,

    Couldn't disagree more. Tufano's Lemon Chicken is one of the best dishes in the city of Chicago. Crisp, slightly charred, juicy bone-in chicken, extra crisp cottage fries, puddle of olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, with the potatoes on the bottom soaking up olive oil and chicken juices. Not to mention broiler charred lemon halves perfuming the air.

    Tufano's calamari and antipasto salad are good, and I enjoy the occasional broccoli and shells, but Lemon Chicken is the draw.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #18 - October 18th, 2005, 9:42 pm
    Post #18 - October 18th, 2005, 9:42 pm Post #18 - October 18th, 2005, 9:42 pm
    I've been a Tufano's customer for decades, and often recommend it to others. My last couple of visits, however, have not been fulfilling. It's not a perfect world, and I suffer from a "soft spot" in my heart/stomach for the place and can overlook periodic shortcomings. The antipasto salad is to die for. For the price . . . and in the hope that it's a "good day", I still recommend it and will continue to visit myself. Gennaro's on Taylor St. is an often overloked place that I also like. It serves-up good, hearty food.
  • Post #19 - October 19th, 2005, 8:52 am
    Post #19 - October 19th, 2005, 8:52 am Post #19 - October 19th, 2005, 8:52 am
    G Wiv wrote:
    saps wrote:I think Tufano's is a good place to go for a get together with a group and have a family style meal, but I wouldn't go there specifically for any of their dishes.

    Saps,

    Couldn't disagree more. Tufano's Lemon Chicken is one of the best dishes in the city of Chicago. Crisp, slightly charred, juicy bone-in chicken, extra crisp cottage fries, puddle of olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, with the potatoes on the bottom soaking up olive oil and chicken juices. Not to mention broiler charred lemon halves perfuming the air.

    Tufano's calamari and antipasto salad are good, and I enjoy the occasional broccoli and shells, but Lemon Chicken is the draw.

    Enjoy,
    Gary


    Haven't had the lemon chicken-sounds good. I'll give it a try.

    Saps

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