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Chicago Area Dinner

Dinner at La Vita: tasteless, gloppy "carbonara"


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Restaurants & Bars Chicago Area Dinner

Dinner at La Vita: tasteless, gloppy "carbonara"

Steve Sanders | | Jan 12, 2007 03:58 AM

OK, so maybe it was my fault by asking for something not on the menu.

I stopped by La Vita on Taylor Street ( for a late dinner, and asked the waiter if there was any chance the kitchen could whip up a spaghetti carbonara. No problem, he assured me.

A good carbonara, to my mind, means al dente spaghetti nicely coated with egg, studded with coarsely cut bacon or pancetta, and redolent of garlic and imported cheese.

What I got, sadly, was a huge $13 soupbowl of ... glop: overcooked spaghetti (really spaghettini), drowning in what must have been at least 10 fluid ounces of beige-ish, utterly flavorless cream sauce, oddly like a bechamel, with a very few specks of what I assume was pancetta and some grudging slivers of mushroom. If there was egg, garlic, or cheese in this dish, I couldn't tell.

I don't think I've ever had a restaurant carbonara that I thought was very good. It's too often pasty, or made with too much cream, or adulterated with pointless peas. But for a place that apparently aspires to be a stylish little white table cloth nook on the city's best-known strip of Italian eateries, this was a pasta dish worthy of Applebee's.

The caesar salad was acceptable, though the dressing tasted a bit too much of dijon mustard, and the anchovies I'd asked for showed up late, in a separate little dish of oil still half-congealed from the fridge. Lightly toasted, thinly sliced bread was dropped on the table indifferently by a passing busboy.

As for wines, my glass of Minini pinot grigio ($6) was interesting for its very prounced flavor of pear. A La Cappuccina soave ($6) was unremarkable.

Aiming to cut my losses, I skipped dessert.

The waiter was pleasant, but the service seemed rushed, probably because I had come in late (which I really don’t think should ever be an excuse in a fine dining restaurant if they agree to seat you in the first place).

La Vita looks like it was done by the interior decorator for a W Hotel, with lots of wood, brushed stainless steel, and purple fabric. Unfortunately, the food isn't nearly as chic as the ambiance tries to be.

This is $40 I wish I had back.

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