For her birthday, the Bride wished to dine at this historic N'ville spot. Formerly Washington Square, a very servicable upmarket continental place run by a nice Greek fellow that had been there for years. Steaks, chops, and a few greek-ish and french-ish dishes in a plush setting in downtown Naperville. But apparently he wanted to get out of the business and sold it to Clara's - an Italian place on route 53 in Woodridge, also older than creation, primarily notable because, it is said, Clara was Mama Celeste's daughter, and, more importantly, because of the family portraits on the walls. These portraits show clearly that the family shares a proclivity for strong chins (the kind that really needs a well-chewed cigar hanging above it) and this shows through for all ages and both sexes. The baby picture is a classic.
The food, on the other hand, always left me cold. Badly seasoned, over-sauced, over-priced pasta. I swore off Clara's a decade ago. But the Bride wanted to try the new one. What to do? Carlucci in Downers called, and she bit. But for purely practical reasons (a 20% discount, and proximity) I wavered and off to Clara's we went. Dumb.
The meal started pretty well. We brought the wine ('96 Miramar Pinot), so it was good. An order of Bruschetta with a sprinkle of goat cheese was quite good. And the clams in butter, wine and garlic were very good, indeed. The 16-year-old son was even being gracious, open and amusing. Things looked very good.
Then came the main courses. Son's meat ravioli in meat sauce (won't say bolognese, Antonius) was tasty. Large raviolis with a savory filling, lightly sauced. Should have had that. My grilled salmon in "mushroom merlot sauce with angel hair" was actually two courses, primi and secondi. Served on a long plate, there was a mushy pile of angel hair with a nice sauce and slices of mushrooms on one side, and fingers of salmon, grilled to a tee, with the same sauce on the other. The salmon was very good, and the sauce quite tasty. The angel hair was sad.
The bride went with angel hair with pesto and grilled chicken. Shall we just call this a bowl of glop? Swimming in pesto, overcooked (can you get this stuff al dente) angel hair and chunks of chicken. The taste was not bad, but the totality was awful. Maybe with linguini cooked properly and 1/4 the sauce this could have been okay, but it was not.
Finished with pedestrian desserts - a comp'ed Tiramisu for the birthday girl and Chocolate Mousse for the teen.
They have a full menu of steaks and chops, and the place looks exactly like it did, no change. If I have to go, I am having something grilled, or maybe ravioli. Probably much better than Sullivan's which is around the corner. That's the best I can say.
Clara's on the Square
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