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Passersby may mistake the stylish Market District storefront FOLLIA, owned by Hype Model Management honcho Bruno Abate, for a boutique or gallery: the mannequins perched in the front windows are all wearing haute couture, and the waitstaff is made up mostly of models. But the servers are only part of the eye candy. Tiny, iridescent celery green tiles are inlaid around the center bar, while similar royal blue tiles cover the back wall. Opaque plastic chairs trimmed in glittery silver flank the tables, and a six-by-four-foot patch of artificial grass hangs on one wall like a painting. Alberto Boccelli, who hails from the Principe di Savoia Hotel in Milan, executes a straightforward menu that's refreshing given the high-style ambience. The focus is on mostly imported Italian ingredients and fresh cheese and pasta. The mozzarella on the caprese salad is made in-house, fresh and creamy and drizzled with an aromatic herbed olive oil. The pizzas don't have any designer elements, and they don't need them; margherita (mozzarella and basil), napoletana (anchovies and oregano), and quattro formaggi (four cheese) all come on a thin, deliciously chewy crust. The rest of the menu changes daily, but on one visit there was an assortment of homemade pastas for the first course: tagliolini with fresh shrimp and zucchini, ziti with a tomato sauce and ricotta, a rich but al dente risotto with porcini mushrooms and asparagus. The limited selection of entrees included scallopinialla lombarda (veal in lemon sauce, pounded thin and served with fresh parsley and mashed potatoes) and a sole dish with shrimp, tomato, and capers that would have had more appeal if it hadn't been served in the foil it was baked in. The sauce was good enough to finish off with a piece of bread, but unfortunately the slices in our basket had been cut so thin that they quickly dried out. Follia shares a hall and bathrooms with the adjacent Fulton Lounge, so while the restaurant is still BYO, you can start or finish with a cocktail if you like. Follia is at 953 W. Fulton, 312-243-2888.

The long-shuttered Busy Bee space has finally turned into the retro American diner BLUE LINE CLUB CAR. The room is oddly set up, with a gigantic, partially exposed kitchen and a semicircular bar in the center, leaving only the perimeter for the booth seating. As the name implies, the Blue Line roars overhead; inside, only the tall windows, narrow black curtains, and rounded ceilings hint at a train car. Flat computer screens mounted on either side of the kitchen quickly bring the ambience back to the future, as does the eclectic American fare, which has more global twists than any diner menu I've seen. Appetizers (called "Finger Food," even though most of them can't be eaten without utensils) include Oaxacan nachos, fried green tomatoes, chicken satay, and Creole-style shrimp. Entrees are a bit more in keeping with the diner theme: a Cobb salad, a turkey club, spaghetti and meatballs, and a large burger served with a pickle slice and fries. Throwback drinks like martinis and old-fashioneds are offered, but farther down the list are Jell-O shots, Cuban mojitas, and something called a Fireball: pepper vodka with vermouth and Tabasco. The identity seems a bit confused, but the music is good and the pretension level low. Blue Line Club Car is at 1548 N. Damen, 773-395-3700.

Like Lettuce Entertain You's Nuevo Latin restaurant Nacional 27, River North newcomer RUMBA takes its trimmings seriously. Juxtaposed against the industrial-looking exposed-beam ceilings are beaded lamp shades in the dining area, jewel-studded glass light fixtures at the bar, and quilted red velvet chairs up front. Banquettes are richly upholstered, and a raised stage near the entrance features live jazz and mambo. The high-end decor sets the stage for an elaborate and pricey menu that somehow looks better than it tastes. Liberties are taken with classic Cuban dishes like arepas (corn cakes), served here in a mini version that's stuffed with a salty meat stew rather than the traditional cheese filling. Tostones (mashed plantain cakes) are formed into a cup, deep-fried past the point of preserving the starch's subtle flavor, then filled with a nondescript shrimp mixture. Seviche comes in a trio: a shrimp version with diced green tomato, a scallop variety in orange essence, and a Peruvian-style whitefish in the traditional lime marinade. They're all good on first bite, but the flavors meld into an indistinguishable soup due to close placement on the same dish. An entree called el pascador mixed rice with chorizo, shrimp, mussels, scallops, and lobster, the last flambeed with brandy (in the kitchen, not tableside); while the seafood was of nice quality and quantity, the flavor was unbalanced, leaning too heavily in the direction of tomato sauce and salt. The lunch menu departs from the Latin theme with offerings like a saffron chicken salad, a turkey club, a burger, and a pastrami sandwich. The highlight here is the wine list, which includes what may be the most extensive selection of South African vintages in town, along with several Argentine and Chilean bottles, most under $40. Service is courteous and accommodating. Between the live music and the mojitas it's not difficult to have a good time here, but the food needs a little work. Rumba is at 351 W. Hubbard, 312-222-1226.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kevin Weinstein.

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