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Ristorante Agostino
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  • Ristorante Agostino

    Post #1 - June 3rd, 2005, 2:09 pm
    Post #1 - June 3rd, 2005, 2:09 pm Post #1 - June 3rd, 2005, 2:09 pm
    I'm sad to say that I can't speak with a depth of knowledge about everything on Agostino's menu, but I can speak with a lengthy knowledge of the restaurant. I first started going to Agostino's when they were in a storefront next to Pasta Fresh in the 3400 block of N. Harlem, over 20 years ago. Back in the day, the pastas were done just al dente, dressed in appropriate sauces made with tasteful restraint [my cooking tends to suffer from the 'some good, more better' syndrome, and the chef here is above that]. Fish dishes are well prepared, veal dishes tender and flavorful; and again the sauces are made with a light hand and and good ingredients [herbs have always been noticably fresh].

    As time went by they built their own building further south on Harlem, and redecorated it at least once. Somehow, I hadn't been there for over 10 years until about 2 months ago. It looked different from what I remembered, but tasted just the same. Well-selected ingredients, well prepared. I had the mixed seafood pasta that night: the shellfish was fresh, properly cooked and of generous quantity, the pasta just right, the tomato sauce was well balanced between sweet and acidic and brought everything together. Dinner came with salad, bread, and fruit; all were good but nothing rave-worthy. The entrees are what stand out here.

    I'm so very impressed by their ability and desire to maintain quality levels in the kitchen. This is not a perfect restaurant.... The wine list doesn't wow me, the service has that professional but distant "you're not a regular here" feel, and it's done up in a decorating style my mom refers to as "Art Dago". [She taught me that it wasn't nice to tell jokes about ethnic groups except your own, and I claim my rights as the granddaughter of Antonio DeStefano and Giovanna Chiappa DeStefano.] The food has always been very good whenever I have managed to go there, and that's more than enough for to put it forward as a great neighborhood restaurant.

    Giovanna


    Ristorante Agostino
    2817 N. Harlem Ave.
    773-745-6464
    =o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=

    "Enjoy every sandwich."

    -Warren Zevon
  • Post #2 - June 3rd, 2005, 2:16 pm
    Post #2 - June 3rd, 2005, 2:16 pm Post #2 - June 3rd, 2005, 2:16 pm
    Ristorante Agostino pleasantly surprised me 6 weeks ago, when my parents and I stopped by on the way back from O'Hare. It was really very good. Everything was well prepared, fresh, etc. I'm sure my mom will chime in on the seafood she had. I would also imagine it's a place that does a great chicken vesuvio :)

    -ed
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #3 - June 3rd, 2005, 10:02 pm
    Post #3 - June 3rd, 2005, 10:02 pm Post #3 - June 3rd, 2005, 10:02 pm
    Indeed. In fact, it was just a month ago, that I said
    it was one of the finest Italian meals I have had in Chicago
    Slightly more detail here
  • Post #4 - June 3rd, 2005, 10:36 pm
    Post #4 - June 3rd, 2005, 10:36 pm Post #4 - June 3rd, 2005, 10:36 pm
    Funny, I was just on Harlem today and noticed it, but didn't realize it was the same place as used to be next to Pasta Fresh, and which I visited for lunch several times some years back (can't remember anything specific but if I went several times, musta liked it...) There are a number of restaurant along there, anyone eaten at any of the others (besides Riviera and Caponie's?)
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  • Post #5 - June 7th, 2005, 4:41 pm
    Post #5 - June 7th, 2005, 4:41 pm Post #5 - June 7th, 2005, 4:41 pm
    Giovanna wrote:I'm sad to say that I can't speak with a depth of knowledge about everything on Agostino's menu, but I can speak with a lengthy knowledge of the restaurant...

    As time went by they built their own building further south on Harlem, and redecorated it at least once.


    During the period 1997-2001--before I found LTH brethren, indeed before LTH was a glimmer in anyone's eye, I went to Agostino's many times. Above description is dead on and I cannot add to it.

    The way we found it was this: two of us in Chicago repeatedly on business, cruising Harlem Ave north from Midway to Glenview just exploring.

    We found Elmwood Park (dead reckoning and dumb luck). We found Domino's Bakery--after being served a great complimentary St Joseph's cake at Palermo's 95th & Cicero--the old couple made some great cookies too. We found Johnnies-courtesy of Domino's when we asked simply 'Where can we get a good sandwich?'.

    Agostino's, however, we found on our own. First time we both spotted the building was a weekday around lunchtime and our chow meter went off the screen. It looked just right. In that I mean beautifully kept, in a manner that first and second generation houses in business in NYC that we remembered and grew up with were kept.

    We veered into the parking lot, but it was closed for lunch.

    Anyway, long story short, after quite a few visits one weekend we had my wife and my partner's SO along. The night turned into an engagement party when they broke the news. Now for Catholics at or beyond a certain age, remarrying is a big deal. So we made a big deal out of it, French Champagne and all. I don't remember the label, it was real and it was rose, and the price was more than fair.

    Glad to hear that others here like Agostino's as well for exactly what it is--a husband and wife owned/tandem chef team neighborhood place that feels good and puts out some good food.

    fwiw--Agostino's is closed Monday, or they used to be. They take reservations too.
    Chicago is my spiritual chow home
  • Post #6 - June 7th, 2005, 5:41 pm
    Post #6 - June 7th, 2005, 5:41 pm Post #6 - June 7th, 2005, 5:41 pm
    Many years ago, when they were located next to what is now Pasta Fresh, I used to dine there regularly. I remember the Zuppa de Pesche as being phenominal. I don't really know why I stopped going and have never visited the present location. It sounds like the food is as good as ever. This p-lace gets my vote as a GNR.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #7 - June 11th, 2005, 7:46 pm
    Post #7 - June 11th, 2005, 7:46 pm Post #7 - June 11th, 2005, 7:46 pm
    Ristorante Agostino seems like a swell place by all accounts, and I'm eager to give it a try sometime.

    It well may be a great neighborhood restaurant, but I'm not convinced it's an LTH Great Neighborhood Restaurant. At least not yet.

    Apart from Giovanna's compelling portrait, and beyond this thread, Ristorante Agostino has a pretty limited presence on LTH:

    http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=31196#31196
    http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=31181#31181
    http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=22499#22499
    http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=15780#15780
    http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=22406#22406

    Among these five posts are two passing mentions, one passing recommendation, one "I heard it was good", and one substantive, decisive, favorable, brief review. And this favorable review is the only supporting post(s) in this thread based on a recent meal.

    Is there anyone else who can weigh in with a little more detailed support?

    Again, I wish to be clear that I'm not expressing doubt about the quality of the place, just the state of the discourse on LTH. One of the things I hope results from the launching of this program is that restaurants like Agostino that don't have much of a track record on LTH are brought to the fore, pursued and enjoyed, such that they can fairly and deservedly be called not just great restaurants but board favorites.

    Cheers,

    Aaron
  • Post #8 - June 12th, 2005, 1:25 pm
    Post #8 - June 12th, 2005, 1:25 pm Post #8 - June 12th, 2005, 1:25 pm
    Aaron Deacon wrote:Ristorante Agostino seems like a swell place by all accounts, and I'm eager to give it a try sometime.

    It well may be a great neighborhood restaurant, but I'm not convinced it's an LTH Great Neighborhood Restaurant. At least not yet.

    Among these five posts are two passing mentions, one passing recommendation, one "I heard it was good", and one substantive, decisive, favorable, brief review. And this favorable review is the only supporting post(s) in this thread based on a recent meal.

    Is there anyone else who can weigh in with a little more detailed support?

    Cheers,

    Aaron


    I have to agree that Aaron makes some good points in this post, and that perhaps GNR status [the equivalent of how many Michelin stars, I wonder?] oughtn't be bestowed on a restauraunt so little reviewed on the board.

    On the other hand, I'd be disappointed if it was left below the cut [at least for now... I assume that this event will be annual?]. I don't post a whole lot, feeling less eloquent than some and, as a frequent solo diner, less widely eaten. [Gotta be a better way to put that :oops: .] I'd be ever so happy to meet my brother and sister LTHers at Agostino some evening to see if my opinon of the place holds up to their scrutiny.

    Giovanna
    =o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=

    "Enjoy every sandwich."

    -Warren Zevon
  • Post #9 - June 12th, 2005, 4:10 pm
    Post #9 - June 12th, 2005, 4:10 pm Post #9 - June 12th, 2005, 4:10 pm
    Mike G wrote:Funny, I was just on Harlem today and noticed it, but didn't realize it was the same place as used to be next to Pasta Fresh, and which I visited for lunch several times some years back (can't remember anything specific but if I went several times, musta liked it...) There are a number of restaurant along there, anyone eaten at any of the others (besides Riviera and Caponie's?)


    Mike, it's not on the Harlem strip. But, I had an excellent red sauce style Italian lunch last week at Basilico on Cumberland near the intersection of Lawrence. The marinara was bright colored and really flavorful. The menu referred to the Pasta as Penne versus Mostaciolli leading me to believe that the proprietors may be from back east.

    Basilico offered at least 20 lunch menu items. My table had a really good spaghetti and meatballs, a red clam sauce that was declared excellent, and a chicken marsala that looked very good.

    Each entree came with soup or salad (my soup was a tomato based clam chowder-lending more credence to the New York/New Jersey connection).

    Our bill for three , with tip and non-alcoholic beverages came to $40. The portions were extremely generous.

    Basilico Ristorante
    4701 N. Cumberland
    Norridge, IL 60656
    (708) 452-6400
    (708) 452-0731

    Basilico Lunch Menu
  • Post #10 - June 12th, 2005, 7:43 pm
    Post #10 - June 12th, 2005, 7:43 pm Post #10 - June 12th, 2005, 7:43 pm
    Giovanna wrote:... I'd be ever so happy to meet my brother and sister LTHers at Agostino some evening to see if my opinon of the place holds up to their scrutiny.

    Giovanna


    Sounds good... con piacere...

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #11 - June 12th, 2005, 9:26 pm
    Post #11 - June 12th, 2005, 9:26 pm Post #11 - June 12th, 2005, 9:26 pm
    Giovanna wrote:I'd be ever so happy to meet my brother and sister LTHers at Agostino some evening to see if my opinon of the place holds up to their scrutiny.


    To paraphrase our beloved municipal ruler, I'd love to scrooten Agostino more closely. My schedule is admittedly quite full in the near future, but I'll do my best to take part whenever you get the ball rolling.

    Cheers,

    Aaron
  • Post #12 - July 27th, 2005, 11:05 pm
    Post #12 - July 27th, 2005, 11:05 pm Post #12 - July 27th, 2005, 11:05 pm
    When I go out for a sit-down, Italian-American meal these days (which admittedly is almost never), I don’t look for new culinary ground to be broken, or to have my mind blown by the dishes. What I want is to feel like I’m being invited into someone’s home, to be welcomed with a well made cocktail, to have gay banter with a prideful and feisty waiter, and to be stuffed full of simple, tasty food. This is exactly the experience I had the other night at my first visit to Sabatino’s. A truly great night out.

    Tonight, on the other hand, PIGMON and I had the opposite experience at Ristorante Agostino. As first impressions go, this was not our finest hour. The service was good enough, forgettable, but inoffensive. The food...not so good.

    We ordered the Rapini with Sausage.

    Image

    The highlight of our meal perhaps because it was so simply prepared. The sausage, though, was very salty with a smooth texture. Almost like an Italian flavored bratwurst. The rapini was sauteed in garlic and olive oil until two shades past al dente. Perfectly acceptable for an Italian veg preparation. We didn’t realize at the time that the pasta preparation would follow suit.

    Image

    A very generous portion of squishy pasta, watery sauce and no discernable pork flavor. Bucatini ala Matriciana this was not. This is why it’s hard to order pasta in a restaurant.

    And finally the Chicken Vesuvio. It looks pretty. (There, I said something positive). While the pasta had no discernable pork flavor, the chicken had just plain no flavor. It was the oddest experience. We saw the golden chicken and potatoes drenched a sauce studded with caramelized garlic cloves and thought wow! yum, this is going to be good. But when we took a bite we knew there was something in our mouths, but it didn’t taste like anything. The sauce tasted like watery vegetable oil and the chicken was scrawny and dry.

    Image
    PIGMON’s minestrone soup that came with dinner was fine, tasty even. My tortellini en brodo was god awful. A thin over salted broth, with miniature pillows of pasty mush.

    The generous fruit plate at the end of the meal was a nice palate cleanser.

    These are pretty strong first impressions, I know, but I feel like it's fair enough. Just two people's opinions to add to the opinion base. For what it's worth, the table next to us was raving about their food to their waiter - saying it was the best pasta they had ever had.

    trixie-pea


    *note from pigmon: In the words of the immortal chinola “this meal was @#%!in’ ass”
  • Post #13 - July 27th, 2005, 11:19 pm
    Post #13 - July 27th, 2005, 11:19 pm Post #13 - July 27th, 2005, 11:19 pm
    I was always under the inpression that fish was the way to go at Ristorante Agostino. I've been meaning to get there to check it out for some time now. Based on your experience, I guess I'm not in as big a hurry any more, but I still want to go and check out the pesche.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #14 - July 27th, 2005, 11:20 pm
    Post #14 - July 27th, 2005, 11:20 pm Post #14 - July 27th, 2005, 11:20 pm
    Sorry about the bad experience. The question is whether it's a downhill alert or just a truly inconsistent kitchen. My last experience at Ristorante Agostino was as good as any of my Sabatino's visits (although I like Sabatino's more for, due to the breadth of the menu and the non-food aspects).

    A shame.

    -ed
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #15 - July 28th, 2005, 5:48 am
    Post #15 - July 28th, 2005, 5:48 am Post #15 - July 28th, 2005, 5:48 am
    trixie-pea wrote:The sauce tasted like watery vegetable oil and the chicken was scrawny and dry.

    Trixie-Pea,

    At least the portions look generous. :lol:

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #16 - July 28th, 2005, 7:50 am
    Post #16 - July 28th, 2005, 7:50 am Post #16 - July 28th, 2005, 7:50 am
    gleam wrote: The question is whether it's a downhill alert or just a truly inconsistent kitchen.


    Yea, since this was my first time, I'm not sure. Do you concur with Stevez, and think fish* is what you should order? The people that I mentioned who were raving about the meal were eating a seafood pasta dish. I'm not sure how I could reconcile such a meal, but I could be convinced to go back and try it again. Perhaps on a busier night - there were only a couple of other tables at 7:30.

    *I have to admit that as we were walking in we both smelled a strong fishy smell coming from outside the restaurant. Maybe just rotting garbage? In any case it certainly didn't put us in the mood for seafood.
  • Post #17 - July 28th, 2005, 8:29 am
    Post #17 - July 28th, 2005, 8:29 am Post #17 - July 28th, 2005, 8:29 am
    It was pretty empty last time I was there, too. I'm not sure whether that's an indicator or not.

    I do think fish is probably one of the things to order. I was last there on a Friday evening, so maybe the better cooks were in the house.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #18 - July 28th, 2005, 9:24 am
    Post #18 - July 28th, 2005, 9:24 am Post #18 - July 28th, 2005, 9:24 am
    We had intended to have Shanghai food Sunday with my dad and niece, but given the weather, my dad asked if there were someplace halfway between us, say in the Oak Park area, where we could meet. My niece had suggested Chinese or Italian, so we took the opportunity to try Agostino.

    I would say specials, particularly fish, is the way to go. We had the grilled calamari, which was dead on and really tasty. Himself had a roasted veal chop, very simply grilled, which came with a nice pile of roasted peppers dressed simply somehow including capers. He's not a huge roasted pepper fan, but he ate them all, and it was a generous pile. Also some whole grilled (or perhaps sauteed) mushrooms.

    Dad and I both had the whole grilled John Dory, which was excellent. My only criticism would be that it was presented with a bit too much sauce, but that was easily avoided. The other fish special was a whole snapper available grilled or mediterranean style with tomatoes, olives, etc. I asked the waiter which he would suggest and he said the John Dory was such a great fish he would suggest it.

    I also asked where they sourced their fish and he said Agostino has a network of fishermen in the Gulf and purveyors on each coast that he speaks to daily, they get direct shipment daily.

    The fish came with broccoli in a simple lemon butter that was tasty and cooked Italian style, that is soft but not disintegrating, which I quite like.

    We passed on soup in favor of salad, which was a cut above serviceable in that it had more than just iceberg. Included the obligatory tomato wedge, which does not benefit from a plated salad being pulled from the fridge. But serviceable.

    The melon on the fruit plate was fabulous.

    Since Dad was paying, I'm not sure how often we would go to a place like this. My guess is the specials were in the $25 range, anyway. But Dad quite liked it, there wasn't too much noise, it wasn't overly air conditioned. I'm guessing he'll be taking his lady friend there.

    We got there about 10 minutes before Dad & niece (unadventurous, she had cheese ravioli which she said were good) and I confess that the menu left me grasping for something, but I knew going in to wait for the fish specials. A lot of stuff on the menu I'm not sure I would order. I tend not to order pastas in Italian restaurants because they're apt to be a big disappointment. Chicken vesuvio I've long given up on because I have never, not once, had it in a restaurant where it was worth half the price charged and it's so easy to make at home (not to restart that discussion, but....). I probably would have gone with something like veal limone or pulled together a couple of appetizers with a plate of rapini for a meal off the printed menu.
  • Post #19 - July 28th, 2005, 9:55 am
    Post #19 - July 28th, 2005, 9:55 am Post #19 - July 28th, 2005, 9:55 am
    annieb wrote:I would say specials, particularly fish, is the way to go. We had the grilled calamari, which was dead on and really tasty.

    I also asked where they sourced their fish and he said Agostino has a network of fishermen in the Gulf and purveyors on each coast that he speaks to daily, they get direct shipment daily.


    This is good to know. Although there either weren't any specials last night, or for some reason, the waiter didn't divulge.

    trixie-pea
  • Post #20 - July 28th, 2005, 9:59 am
    Post #20 - July 28th, 2005, 9:59 am Post #20 - July 28th, 2005, 9:59 am
    trixie-pea wrote:
    Image

    A very generous portion of squishy pasta, watery sauce and no discernable pork flavor. Bucatini ala Matriciana this was not. This is why it’s hard to order pasta in a restaurant.


    Trixie-pea:

    I'm very sorry to hear of your bad experience at Agostino's, in part because I'm fond of you and Pigmon and regret your having to suffer through a bad meal and in part because I have heard good things (both here and elsewhere) about this place and had hoped it would be an Italian restaurant I would be willing to visit, if and when need for that arose. As I've said before, I tend to avoid Italian restaurants, not just because I eat Italian food at home so often but also because of the disappointment factor. And when for some reason or another I do find myself in an Italian restaurant, I usually avoid ordering pasta because generally speaking, restaurants in this country, even otherwise fairly good ones, just refuse to take the simple steps required to be able to present an acceptable bowl of pasta to their guests.

    The picture of the "bucatini alla matriciana" is interesting. Note that there clearly is - as my son, Lucantonius, would say - "green stuff" in the sauce; to me it appears to be basil. Now, as some of the broader LTH world may know, I tend to be a purist when it comes to traditional Italian recipes. In the case of "alla matriciana", the traditional recipe includes only onion, pork product, tomatoes, red chile, perhaps a splash of wine, but neither garlic nor ever any herb whatsoever. Judging from the above, the version at Agostino's is pseudo-alla-matriciana. More specifically, I would guess that what they have done is just taken some pancetta, fried it in a pan, and then ladled in a measure of their basic tomato-with-garlic-and-basil sauce. Now, a basic tomato-with-garlic-and-basil with some pork in it is by no means necessarily a bad thing at all but it ain't 'alla matriciana', and at an Italian restaurant, owned by a native of Italy (though not from Lazio, I'm sure), one would hope for a more traditional, less yankified or gringeado version.

    Now, compare the above version with one produced by one of my most promising students ( :wink: ) (see this thread for accompanying text):

    Image

    Note that there is nary a speck of green stuff in sight; just tomatoes and onion and pork bits and, as should be, a generous dusting of pecorino romano. And compare further how the above version looks with the one pictured along with a traditional recipe for the dish on this Italian site:
    bucatini alla matriciana ancor' una volta

    Restaurants must as a matter of course use certain short-cuts at times, but if, as I suspect, the bucatini alla matriciana you ordered were dressed with doctored tomato-basil-garlic sauce, that goes beyond what is appropriate for a real Italian restaurant. And perhaps this is the reason there are so many folks out there who seem to want to refuse to believe that there are lots of Italian dishes, such as the one in question here, which traditionally include no garlic or no herbs or in some other salient way fail to conform with the stereotypical, caricaturised form of Italianoid cuisine which is so commonly offered as "Italian" here.

    ***

    After all that, I have to add that I still want to try Agostino's one of these days. The postive reports I've heard have been several and pretty consistent and, while I don't doubt at all the veracity of the report of the poor quality meal described above, it does seem possible the poor quality may have some reasonable explanation (who knows, maybe chef on vacation or something along those lines).

    E come si dice a Roma: Magna bene, caca forte e nun avè paura della morte.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #21 - July 28th, 2005, 10:34 am
    Post #21 - July 28th, 2005, 10:34 am Post #21 - July 28th, 2005, 10:34 am
    Antonious,

    For me, I think I wouldn't have cared about the basil or the garlic in the pasta sauce, if it had been cooked to a proper doneness, tossed over heat with sauce, and finished with a little something (olive oil at least). I have yet to eat a good Italian pasta dish in a Chicago restaurant. (flame! flame! :twisted: ) , and I am seriously perplexed by why this is.

    As for your explanation about how they constructed the sauce, I am in total agreement. At first I wasn't even sure if there was any pork product in the sauce at all..but upon further inspection I did find a few bits of something meat-like.

    When Giovanna hosts her dinner there, I will definitely be there to try again.

    trixie-pea
  • Post #22 - July 28th, 2005, 12:46 pm
    Post #22 - July 28th, 2005, 12:46 pm Post #22 - July 28th, 2005, 12:46 pm
    On reflection, I would order the grilled fish without sauce next time. The fish had an oil lemon mix with big chunks of raw garlic in it. It seemed that it was sauced after grilling. This was basically the same sauce as the grilled calamari, although that had quite a bit of additional lemon (next time I might ask them to add a bit of pepperoncino to the calamari as well).

    While there was nothing wrong with the sauce on the fish, there was a lot of it. The fish itself was so good that I might have preferred it with simply a little lemon and salt, perhaps a little bit of olive oil.

    As to the bucatini alla matriciana, I don't see why it's so hard to make this sauce properly and keep it on hand. Whenever I make it, I make a double quantity and we eat it again a few days later. It does not seem to suffer overly from a few days storage.

    If they aren't willing to make the sauce right, or there's perhaps not enough demand, they might consider dropping it from the menu.

    I noticed a lot of people eating pasta with seafood. I am occasionally tempted by linguine with clams, simply because Himself is deathly allergic to bivalves so I almost never get to cook them. But I try to remind myself....pasta.....restaurant.....wait till the next time he's out for the evening and buy yourself some clams, mussels, whatever.
  • Post #23 - July 28th, 2005, 1:24 pm
    Post #23 - July 28th, 2005, 1:24 pm Post #23 - July 28th, 2005, 1:24 pm
    Antonius, I don't claim to be a pasta expert but I do feel that any good example is one where the sauce enhances the actual pasta; not the other way around. Your picture of Gary's version of Bucatini ala Matriciana is a great example of what I'm talking about. The simplicity of just coating pasta with whatever sauce one chooses seems to be a lost concept. I've always been under the impression that great Italian cuisine is based around the concept of combining simple, quality ingredients.
  • Post #24 - July 30th, 2005, 2:06 pm
    Post #24 - July 30th, 2005, 2:06 pm Post #24 - July 30th, 2005, 2:06 pm
    I have a feeling that one result of the GNR awards is that the places chosen will get a lot more traffic and attention here than in the past. Some, and Agostino's may have just joined that group, will not do so well under that scrutiny.

    It is okay for an Italian place to not do pasta so well, I suppose. But if they do not even cook the noodles properly, I am not sure I can consider it a great kitchen. Perhaps just a bad day, and I look forward to reports by others.

    I will be posting on some of my recent experiences at other GNR spots in a bit. From the sound of it, they ranged from a bit better, to much, much better, I am happy to say.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #25 - July 30th, 2005, 10:22 pm
    Post #25 - July 30th, 2005, 10:22 pm Post #25 - July 30th, 2005, 10:22 pm
    Week before last, I had the vitello Agostino. Best baby cow ever.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #26 - October 16th, 2006, 11:04 am
    Post #26 - October 16th, 2006, 11:04 am Post #26 - October 16th, 2006, 11:04 am
    Had a great time!

    Stopped for the first time yesterday fully expecting to have a great meal as I have come to expect from a GNR award restaurant.

    Talk about huge portions! My beautiful bride had a multi-seafood dish on a bed of spaghetti that would of served at least 3 people. She kept on eating and eating and still had a huge amount to take home for several meals. (BTW The calamari was a bit chewy as might be expected from the large pieces but the flavor was very good!)

    I enjoyed the Chicken Marsala. Nicely shaped and tender pieces of chicken with a mountain of mushrooms and a delightful sauce. At first I was thinking the sauce was a bit thin but after finishing the chicken and tasting the sauce on it's own I decided it is wonderfully complex and not overpoweringly seasoned. Perhaps it might of been reduced a tad but it was great.

    I am a big soup fan and the Minestrone was very good as well. Almost creamy with a nice beef component which upped the richness several notches and once again not overpowering. Just great.

    The staff very friendly and professional. The glass of wine, ample and the mixed drinks (mine was a whiskey sour) nice and strong.

    Sometimes a sign of a good restaurant is that if people of that ethnic origin eat there and there was no shortage of Italian-Americans in attendance. Several conversations were overheard in Italian and there was even a large table to the rear with an older gentleman with several large and younger men all dressed casually with suit coats. He would stop at other tables to greet some of his compatriots.

    The fruit plate at the end was a great touch although the Bosc Pears could of been more ripe.

    Only low point of the evening was that we ordered a plate of Carbonara to share between us and it had almost no loose sauce and there was not a pea or chunk of egg to be seen.

    Parking to the north, a short wait about 7 on a Sunday evening and the prices are good based on the quality and quantity.

    Thanks again you'se guys for another great evening out. (so close to home too!)
  • Post #27 - March 26th, 2007, 7:57 pm
    Post #27 - March 26th, 2007, 7:57 pm Post #27 - March 26th, 2007, 7:57 pm
    I didn't really have much to say after I ate at Agostino a few months ago. This was (I think) the last existing GNR I had left to visit and I was excited about my plans to eat there.

    I didn't have much to say because it was one of the most forgettable Italian-American meals I've had in Chicago. I'm not a fan of Sabatino's either and on the way home I think I said, "I wish we had gone to Sabatino's".

    On the plus side, every single table around us seemed to be having a great time. Families, older couples, big parties, all having a blast, and everyone seemed to know their waiter as well as they knew their siblings. I think Agostino is a great neighborhood restaurant (little "g", little "n", little "r"), but not a GNR in my book.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #28 - March 29th, 2007, 6:23 am
    Post #28 - March 29th, 2007, 6:23 am Post #28 - March 29th, 2007, 6:23 am
    LTH,

    Had an enjoyable meal at Ristorante Agostino, not earth shattering, but pleasant on all counts starting with a knowledgeable, friendly, professional waiter and seamless support service, coffee, bread, silver, water were switched, filled and fluffed on a regular basis. I loved the feel of the room, happy buzz of conversation, multigenerational groups, including a birthday party for a 4-year old regular, and everyone seemed to know one another. I'd guess Ellen and I were the only first timers there.

    Reasonable wine list, warm bread, good quality olive oil and tasty, if off ratio breading to clam, baked clams. Mozzarella di bufala caprese was on special, when we equivocated due to winter tomatoes we were assured Agostino prides itself on tomatoes. Buffalo mozzarella was quite good, $2 prosciutto add-on tasty, tomatoes, decent flavor, March in Chicago texture.

    Grilled calamari was the winner of the evening, tender, flavorful, nice bits of char.
    Image

    Bucatini Amatriciana needed a perk-up, clean fresh taste, but flat. Bucatini was toothsome and much improved after a shake of crushed red pepper, sprinkle of salt, grind of pepper and drizzle of olive oil.

    Gratis fruit plate was a nice finish, and as we left at least 3 people thanked us for coming and hoped we had a nice meal. Agostino has been added to our short list of Italian American restaurants along with Bruna's and Sabatino's.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #29 - March 29th, 2007, 9:55 am
    Post #29 - March 29th, 2007, 9:55 am Post #29 - March 29th, 2007, 9:55 am
    http://www.agostinogustofino.com/
  • Post #30 - March 29th, 2007, 10:04 am
    Post #30 - March 29th, 2007, 10:04 am Post #30 - March 29th, 2007, 10:04 am
    Thanks for the link, don't pass up viewing the splash page. It's a hoot!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast

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