Mount Prospect, IL
"A long wait for decent Japanese ramen"
Arlington Heights, IL
"Traditional Italian family owned eatery with a lot of charm"
Authentic Italian cuisine is a little hard to come by. We're surrounded by Olive Gardens and Maggianos and while they aren't bad per se - they don't fit the authentic bill. I'm not sure if I can even call this place authentic although it did a good job conveying what I imagine would be a nice dinner in the Italian countryside.
I would always drive past this place whenever I'd travel to and from my daily locations and wondered about it's in your face kinda neon sign. One fine day, my mom decided that we should try it out. Once in the door, we were greeted by cozy lights and homely wooden tables with a bar on the left side with what looked like regulars chatting with the bartender. I already liked it. I'm a sucker for a place that can achieve a "vibe". The ambience fit perfectly from what this restaurant wanted itself to be. Now, it is at this point that I should warn you that I do have quite the sore throat so my palette wasn't exactly "fine-tuned". I had a hard time eating warmer and spicier foods(heathen, I know) but I still tried my best to summarize my full meal. As for pictures, unfortunately Google Sites is incredibly limited and doesn't allow me to put a picture wherever I want so I've added an image carousel at the bottom in the order of how the food arrived.
Starting off with the first dish, I ordered a cream of chicken soup. It was nice, warm and soothing for me to drink. Apart from the stock chicken, it was a simple beginning and a good entry way into the rest of the meal. There was also different samplings of bread provided to us which we douses in oil and pepper. In terms of appetizer, me and my brother gravitated towards the Involtini Di Melanzane. A grilled eggplant stuffed with prosciutto, ricotta and parmesan cheeses, and finished with marinara sauce (plagiarized directly from the menu description). Arriving steaming hot onto the table with excellent presentation, we all dived in. In my opinion, marinara tends to be a little bit overpowering to the tongue and subdues the other flavors, not giving them a chance to shine. The eggplant was also on the more raw side which gives off a specific flavor I'm not a fan off. For the life of us, we could not figure out where the prosciutto was. I'd like to think I might enjoy this more on another day when my tongue didn't feel like it would fall off. Moving onto my main course was the Raviolo Ricchi E Poveri. Chosen primarily because it seemed to have the least spices, it did the job. Warm aged white brandy sauce with artichokes and sun dried tomatoes filled my plate. I added some parmesan and black pepper to add some flavor but my oh my did the artichoke and tomatoes go well with the meal. They provided the needed contrast to the cheesy ravioli pieces. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to gather my families reactions to their meals, but they all found it good! Finally, the time for dessert had arrived. We immediately gravitated to the tiramisu as that's the family favorite and were greeted by an amazing presentation. The tiramisu itself was... ok? It was more on the this-probably-was-sitting-in-a-fridge side but it was still enjoyable.
All in all, I enjoyed this place a lot. I want to go again and do it justice without having to limit my palette. On top of that, the place is known for their pizzas so I must try that. The waiter we had was also incredibly kind and was helpful in aiding my mom so that we could order her something within her dietary preferences. 6.5/10
Des Plaines, IL
"An authentic Balkan experience in a nice, quaint location."
Upon pulling into the restaurant's driveway, arches that resembled an ATM drive through of a bank greeted our(Joel and I) eyes. Not a car was in sight, although this wasn't the restaurants fault. We had made the awkward decision to come in at 4:00PM, something I like to call white people dinner time. Upon entry we were greeted by a little market/ bazaar looking area with a sign that said "seat yourself". We vowed to come back and get something small.
We found a seat in the back right corner in what appeared to be a … dance floor? Yep, there was a DJ booth to the right as well. In the far back an Eastern European family enjoyed a meal. I absolutely love a good restaurant vibe and so far, this place was meeting all the marks. The menu had quite a few options for us and me having tighter restrictions was delighted. My eyes first fell upon their chicken option. I wasn't really feeling that and when in .. well the Balkans you do as they do. I saw something called the Butcher's meatballs. Consisting of sausages stuffed with bacon, onions, pickles and mozzarella and potato wedges on the side. Joel suggested we get something called Wolf bites as an appetizer and he picked the Chebapi, jokingly referring to the hilarious Key & Peele sketch. After some accompanying wine and a few minutes the waitress arrived with our food.
Maybe I'm easy to please but, I must say, the presentation was FANTASTIC. Coming in these rustic wooden plates, the dim lighting simply accentuated everything in front of us. The food itself was also pretty good. This is just personal preference but the Wolf bites, which were pork tenderloins cooked in wine sauce, fell a little flat. While well cooked, it was more on the bitter side, but Joel seemed to enjoy it. Moving on from that, when I cut the circular sausage patty, piping hot mozzarella and bacon juice oozed and it was nicely spiced. The potato wedges succeeded in being cooked potatoes. It's hard to go wrong there. Joel's dish had similarly spiced sausage links with a flatbread that resembled a pita, onions and a sort of cucumber sauce. Overall, the entrees were successful.
By the end of it, we were literally stuffed. And in a good way. I can plainly say that I would love to come back again to try other options with a larger group. Maybe even come when the dance floor is popping off. 7.5/10
Feel free to read Joel's more succinct review over here.