For my wife, the continuing trend of a low-carb diet falls on deaf ears. Yes, Atkins and South Beach diets continue to spread to the masses. Meanwhile, my wife continues to lobby for support of our city's Italian restaurants, particularly those that offer up Southern Italian favorites. (If only she had such fervor for Mexican, Thai or Chinese...)
Here's a recap of some recent dinners.
2005 W. Division, 773-645-7200
* A favorite for rustic Italian. Had a very enjoyable experience on New Years Eve. For starters, one cant miss with the octopus salad or frito misto. Among pastas (also available in ½ order), the papardelle with pork ragu is outstanding as always, though the gnocci with brown-butter sauce was overly sweet (the gnocci on its own is quite strong, though). Among entrees, the braised short ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender after cooking for five hours. (Unfortunately, they were out of the quail thanks to our late-seating.) For desserts, the maple torrone was enjoyable while the baked apple with taleggio was a little disappointing, though the cheese wedge was nice. Their wine list is top-notch and a nice, smooth Barolo Franco Fiorina was to be had for a reasonable price. Service was very strong -- from the front bar to providing a noisemaker and party hat to ring in the New Year.
Via Carducci Trattoria
1419 W. Fullerton
* Charming little trattoria that serves dishes of southern Italy, particularly the Calabriathe region. Simply said, does a good job with the basics. Good selection of salads and pizzas for starters. Among, entrees, the chicken parmesan was quite good pounded thin and served with a side of penne. We also enjoyed the orecchiette del contadino, shells with spicy-sweet rounds of Italian sausage with a rich tomato sauce. Service was efficient, but thats to be expected on a holiday week before 6 p.m. when youre only one of three occupied tables.
2424 S. Oakley Ave.
* Located in the Heart of Italy neighborhood, this cozy Italian has been serving families since 1933. For starters, the proscutto and melon was quite good and the stracciatelle soup is among the best in the city. Among entrees, its difficult to go without ordering the spaghetti Carbonara and eggplant parmasean. Service is efficient. Food prices are reasonable while the wine list has ridiculous mark-up.
201 E. Grand Ave.
* Serves quality Southern Italian fare out of this unassuming restaurant, which operates with a mom-and-pop feel. Menu provides great depth, with a mix-match setup for the pastas. So, if you really want your gnocci with an alfredo sauce or perhaps garganelli with fra diavolo, you can get it here. Among entrees, chicken parmesan was nicely prepared(better at Via Carducci, though) and my wife enjoyed her penne carbonara + plus peas. Entrée prices are quite reasonable; the list of wines available by the last could be improved. Service is attentive perhaps too attentive at times as it appears that theyre ready to turn the table before 60 minutes expire.
71 W. Monroe
* Much lambasted on this board, the Itailan Village swarms with tourists and theater-goers. However, being that my wife enjoys their basic red-sauce offerings around the holidays (after a stroll of the windows at Fields, no less) we went there in mid-December. Suffice it to say, the experience was ok, and even better than expected this time around. At the same time, it was hardly memorable and thus I struggle to remember what we ordered beyond starting with the customary minestrone and closing with a spumoni. I can't say that I'm looking forward to going back in 12-months but it's probably inevitable.