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Looking for a specific Italian restaurant in Chicago

Just wanted to let anyone who checked back know that our meal as La Scarola was absolutely delicious...although we're pretty sure it's not the place we went to last time. We had stemmed wine glasses and the place wasn't quite the same. Brighter light. A bit too loud. Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time, and now we've got a number of other places to try, too. Thanks again!

Oct 20, 2008
janet1003mn in Chicago Area

Looking for a specific Italian restaurant in Chicago

Thanks so much, nsxtasy! These all look and sound wonderful. As a Minneapolis native, I know what it means to have a dearth of authentic and well-executed Italian cuisine; we've got some, and several that are really excellent, but they are few and far between. But as the daughter of a Cicero, IL native, and a semi-regular visitor, I know from experience that Chicagoans, from classically trained chefs to owners of mom-n-pop diners, do some mighty fine things with food. I look forward to trying some of your suggestions.

Oct 15, 2008
janet1003mn in Chicago Area

Looking for a specific Italian restaurant in Chicago

Thank you so much, everyone, for all your help! We have a list of places that look amazing--and now that Southwest Air is finally trying to get a foothold in the Twin Cities this spring with its first route between here and Chicago, we are hoping to get to try every single one of them.

After looking over the Web sites my husband and I are both about 99% certain that La Scarola is the place that cooked up the meal we both talk about to this day and we are looking forward to going back there this weekend! Thanks again. And if you ever need a Mpls/St. Paul dining tip, I'm always happy to help.

Oct 15, 2008
janet1003mn in Chicago Area

Looking for a specific Italian restaurant in Chicago

Seven years ago, my husband and I got a recommendation for an Italian restaurant from a concierge at the Hotel Allegro. We requested the most authentic place possible, one that was established vs. new and trendy with a genuine local following--and we really lucked out with the BEST Italian meal ever. But, we have since lost the name of the restaurant. We're coming back this weekend and would love to find it. Here's what we remember:

Reasonable cab ride from Hotel Allegro. Even with traffic, we were in the cab only 15-20 minutes tops. But a bit off the beaten path. We had to wait for a cab when we left, so not on the busiest street.

It had photos of famous diners on the walls, but in spite of that, it struck us both as more of a neighborhood favorite more than a tourist haunt. The servers seemed on a first-name basis with many of the other diners. We felt like we'd stumbled into a very friendly private club.

On the small side (maybe 15-20 tables or so) with real linens, romantic light levels and a noise level that was pleasantly bustling to ensure privacy but not so loud that you had to shout to hear each other. No kitschy Italian decor but not pretentiously staged and overworked, either. They served their red wine in stemless glasses and the atmosphere was pretty and pleasant, not the star of the show.

We kicked off the evening with the most amazing grilled calamari and things just got better from there. The food was definitely chef-driven and it seemed like it might have been chef-owned. I seem to remember at least part of the menu being seasonal; our server was excellent and offered good insights on the best offerings.

If anyone can help us find our little spot of Italian heaven (or even direct us to a place that can nearly replicate the original experience) we'd be very appreciative and would happily offer advice if you're ever eating in the Twin Cities. Thanks!

Oct 13, 2008
janet1003mn in Chicago Area

Minneapolis/St. Paul recommendations [Split from "Within Walking Distance of Mag Mile" thread on Chicago Board]

Hi marion10,

Not sure if you'll even get this message, but wanted to make a couple recommendation while you're in Mpls/St. Paul in November that, while in no way will duplicate the experience of the Hancock's 96th floor lounge, might help you find an "office" in the Twin Cities should you ever visit again:

There's a bar/lounge in the Guthrie Theater that extends out over the Mississippi River. Views are pretty and it's a good place to grab a cocktail and appetizers.

If tequila is your thing, check out Barrio, a new tequila bar in downtown Mpls. You can check out a recent review at

Manny's Steakhouse has moved to a new space in the new W Hotel in Minneapolis. Haven't been there yet, but I've heard it's very clubby, with a Prohibition speakeasy theme.

Nye's Polonnaise is just north of downtown Minneapolis--cross the Mississippi via the Hennepin Ave. bridge; you can't miss it--was voted by Esquire Magazine as the best bar in the U.S. I can't even describe it. But this guy can.

I'll be in Chicago in October and will definitely take your recommendation and pay a visit to the lounge in the Hancock. Have fun in the Twin Cities in November!

18 or 21?

I was a college freshman when my state, Minnesota, complied with the federal government's demands (more like blackmail, withholding federal highway repair funds, indeed) when it changed the drinking age from 19 to 21. I was grandfathered in, having turned 19 before the law changed. In the intervening years, I never saw the change in age produce any noticeable difference in the drinking habits of incoming freshmen. And if what my nieces and nephews have told me about college life today is true, it's far more "alcohol-centric" than in my time, when it was legal for us to drink. Binge drinking is a weekend sport for these kids--and "dry" campuses don't change that. Just as it was in my day, there's always a willing host somewhere. I thought this was a ridiculous law then and my views haven't changed in the past 20+ years. Other countries don't have drinking ages--at least not drinking ages the allow its citizens to be able to vote and serve in the military before allowing them to order a beer--and they don't have our problems with drunk driving. Maybe it's time we took at closer look at what works in these countries and apply it to our own situation. Every time I hear about someone who's on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th even 6th DUI/DWI arrest, I want to scream. People are hit by drunk drivers and die because we are too lenient on people who drive drunk and our legal blood alcohol limits are too high. Get serious about punishing offenders and we might make a dent in our drunk driving problem.

Aug 26, 2008
janet1003mn in Features

Italian in KC

I second the vote for Osteria il Centro. I used to live just blocks away--have since moved back to my hometown of Minneapolis--and it was our go-to place for good Italian. I love the chicken spedini, haven't found anything quite like it in the Twin Cities, and go back almost every time we visit the KC in-laws.

Suggestions in Kansas City, near the Plaza?

Grand Street Cafe also has delicious breakfasts/brunches. Would have to check to see if they serve during the week, though.

Brunch in/around Twin Cities

Ok, maybe neither of these are technically "brunch," which my husband has always argued is a buffet, not just an extensive breakfast menu, which is in his mind, just breakfast. However...we've had good luck at Zumbro Cafe, which is near Lake Harriet and surrounded by all the cute little Linden Hills shops. The benedict there is excellent, with a hollandaise that wasn't overly lemony. Edina Grill is another good place--as I'm sure are all the other Grills (Longfellow, Highland). I loved their walleye and shrimp cake benedict. Plus, they have the best hash browns I've ever had. I think it's the ultra-fine grate that makes for a crunchy outside, melty inside treat. Then if you're looking to shop, 50th and France offers plenty of that, too.

Sea Salt (MSP)

I haven't read all the posts yet, but wanted to mention that there is another similar option to Sea Salt, right here in the Twin Cities. It's called the Tin Fish Refectory, located in the old refectory on Lake Calhoun. ( I haven't been there, but it might be interesting for people who dislike Sea Salt to try it and compare the two.

Grand between Fairview and Snelling (MSP)

Sorry to disagree, but my husband and I went to Taste of Thailand. Once. Ugh. My husband literally could not chew his calamari appetizer--it was the consistency of a bicycle tire, and just about as tasty. When he complained, the server huffed like it was unreasonable to expect our food to be fit for human consumption and took it away without so much as a "kiss my a**," let alone an apology. Our main courses were barely better. We asked to see a manager, but were told that he was "busy in the kitchen" and couldn't get away at the moment. You couldn't pay me to take a chance on this place again.

KC - Arthur Bryant's

I lived in KC for 3-1/2 years and am not the world's biggest BBQ fan. Whether that makes me unqualified or well-qualified to judge, I'm not sure. I was warned off of Arthur Bryant's when I first moved there. Many natives like to steer visitors to Gates. That may be because they like the food. Or it may be to watch how their guests react to the "HI!!!! MAY I HE'P YOU?????????" that the counter person booms before the door even swings shut. My personal favorite is Fiorelli's Jack Stack. I never found burnt ends to compare anywhere else. My husband's family, however, swears by Haywards, and my husband and I still grab a few bottles of sauce whenever we're in town.

[MSP] Al Vento

Ditto for me. My budget hasn't allowed me another visit to D'Amico Cucina in some time, but Broder's Pasta Bar is a go-to standard. And Broder's Cucina Italia--little sister deli to the pasta bar--carries cannolis from a bakery in Troy, NY. Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, former food critic for City Pages, did a cannoli quest for a reader a couple years ago. Having never foraged for cannoli myself, I can't personally vouch for the results, but here's a link to her findings:

Red Velvet cake in MSP

Referencing back to much earlier in this thread, Yum also has some tasty cupcakes--including a grown-up version of a Hostess cupcake.