Hours: Lunch: Monday-Friday; Dinner: seven days
Italian from the owner of Tapas Barcelona.
Giovanni Garelli, who owns Evanston's Tapas Barcelona, also has years of experience in Italian restaurants like Avanzare, Scoozi, and Vinci. He's gone back to those roots at this spot, just down the street from the tapas place. Designer Mark Knauer is responsible for the warm old-world-trattoria decor, which includes stone floors, a long oak bar, a wood-burning brick oven, and paintings by local artist Janet McNulty. Roman-style columns connect to wood beams in the ceiling, and brilliant blue hanging light fixtures frame the bar. The menu is full of dishes that are beautiful in their simplicity. Beef carpaccio gets a lift with fennel, capers, and a lemon aioli; a bread salad is adorned just with cucumbers, tomato, basil, and onion; and a baby spinach salad gets dimension from a dollop of goat cheese, oven-roasted tomatoes, and paper-thin crispy prosciutto. The high-temperature oven puts out wonderfully thin pizzas, whether plain (fresh tomato and mozzarella) or jazzed up with artichokes, olives, garlic, and mushrooms. Most entrees are pasta dishes -- there's wild mushroom fettuccine in porcini sauce, spinach-and-ricotta-stuffed ravioli in a butter-and-sage sauce, and a daily risotto. But a must-try is the whitefish: two fillets over a bed of perfectly cooked green lentils, grilled radicchio, and grilled fennel. There's a children's menu with a pizza that's easily big enough for two kids. The mostly Italian wine list is full of good deals and unusual finds.
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