exterior of la buona vita at night

Fantastic Formaggi: 4 of the Best Italian Cheeses

If there’s one common theme in Italian cuisine, it’s cheese. Italy is the world’s 3rd-largest producer of cheese (only behind France and Germany), and actually makes the most flavors — clocking in around 2,500 varieties. Think about your favorite Italian dishes…there’s a very high chance they have cheese — pizza, pasta, lasagna, salads and soups; even desserts like tiramisu have mascarpone cheese. But while more than 2,500 varieties exist, we’ve picked our top 4 best Italian cheeses based on taste and application in cooking. 


This Italian blue cheese is easily identified by its blue-colored “veins” within the firm white body. These bluish veins are created by bacteria, which are injected into the cheese during the production process and grow via aeration — a process that creates airflow within the gorgonzola. Created with cow’s milk, this cheese is very pungent and has a distinct, sharp flavor (mainly because of the blue bacteria). It’s also fairly versatile and can be found in both firm or crumbly forms, depending on how it is prepared. 

Its variations also lend opportunities to create unique pairings. Gorgonzola is particularly tasty when served with fresh fruit, nuts, and veggies.


Asiago cheese comes in two main forms: fresh and aged, which give it vastly different textures. The former tends to be smooth and soft, while the aged version becomes hard and crumbly, making it perfect for grating on soups, salads and pastas.

Fun fact: the most “authentic” form of Asiago is created in the alpine area of the Veneto region and its production methods are very strict. It is made and matured on farms at least 600m above sea level. So if you’ve ever eaten Asiago cheese with the label “Product of the Mountains”, then you know it’s as authentic as you can get.


What kind of list would this be if we didn’t include mozzarella — arguably the most versatile and ubiquitous of all the Italian cheeses? Pizza, mostaccioli, creamy sauces, caprese salad and so much more, this southern Italian cheese is traditionally made from buffalo’s milk and is commonly found in nearly any course of the meal. We tend to think of cheese as being aged; after all, it is mold. But mozzarella is a sort of unique cheese, since it is best enjoyed as soon as it is made, or soon after.

Parmesan (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)

Parmigiano-Reggiano, otherwise known as Parmesan cheese has got to be one of our favorites simply because of its authoritative presence in so many Italian dishes. The cheese actually gets its name from the largest areas in Italy that produce it: Reggio Emilia, Parma, Bologna, and Mantua. Parmigiano-Reggiano has been referred to as the “King of Cheeses” by food critics, so you’ll find this delicious grated goodness on a myriad foods including pasta, bread, soups, salads and more…but you probably already knew that.

What you may not have known is that there actually is a difference between Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The deciding factor is where the cheese is produced. Yep, that’s it. It’s essentially the same cheese, but if it’s not produced in the regions listed above, it cannot be legally labeled “Parmigiano-Reggiano” under Italian and EU law. It may come as no surprise that Italians take their cheese seriously. The DOC (Denominazione di Origine controllata) laws are set in place to protect the integrity and production processes of traditional Italian foods.

La Buona Vita is a scratch Italian kitchen in La Grange, IL. If you’re looking for a delicious, homecooked (and cheesy!) meal, stop on in or call (708) 352-1621 to make a reservation. We look forward to seeing you!

10 Italian Cooking Terms Everybody Should Know

Have you ever ordered from an authentic foreign restaurant only to be surprised by what you were served? In the past, we covered how to pronounce various italian foods to spare you embarrassment the next time you’re reading a menu. But what if you aren’t exactly sure of what those words mean? Perhaps you’ve ordered food before and thought you knew  what you were ordering, but the Italian menu describes a preparation method you were unaware of. Here we’ll go over a few very common vocabulary terms that you will commonly find on menus.

dish of chicken cacciatore
Pollo Cacciatore from La Buona Vita

Al dente: Refers to pasta or rice that is cooked briefly in order to retain some firmness.

Al arrosto/al forno: While these two terms aren’t necessarily the same thing, they are often used interchangeably. Al arrosto means grilled or roasted. Al forno means oven-roasted or oven-baked. Arrosto can also be used as a noun, literally meaning a roast.

Alla griglia: This is the most common way to say ‘barbecued’ or ‘grilled’.

Antipasto: Antipasto (and its commonly used plural form, antipasti) is a general term referring to the first course of an Italian meal. The singular form can also be used to describe a particular dish or appetizer. While the exact ingredients vary on a regional basis, antipasti will most likely include cured meat, olives, peppers, cheese and artichokes served on a platter.

Bianca: Literally translated, ‘bianca’ just means ‘white’. It mostly refers to dishes made without tomatoes that are normally served with them. For instance, pizza bianca is pizza but without the sauce.

Cacciatore: When translated, ‘cacciatore’ simply means ‘hunter’. But in the cooking world, it refers to dishes that are prepared “hunter-style”: served with onions, the occasional wine, spices, and tomatoes.

Crema: Literally meaning (you probably guessed it) ‘cream’, the term crema may refer to either creamy texture or cream as an ingredient.

Fagioli: This just means ‘beans’. Pasta fagioli = pasta and bean soup.

Fritto: When you see ‘fritto’ or its plural ‘fritti’, that means the item(s) are fried. 

Insalata: Simply means ‘salad’.

If you ever have any questions about the menu at La Buona Vita, don’t be embarrassed — just ask our knowledgeable waitstaff! We’re here to help you live the good life and if that means explaining a few preparation methods so you can order what you most desire, we’re happy to help out. Reserve a table today!

5 Italian Cooking Tools You Shouldn’t Live Without

Italian food is one of the most beloved cuisines in the United States and beyond. When you think of Italian food, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it brings back memories about dinner at grandma’s house, or perhaps impressing a first date at a fancy restaurant, or the mouthwatering desserts at a friend’s wedding. Italian cuisine is everywhere, integrated into American culture and even sometimes even changes to satisfy our own palates (see: the origins of pizza). But have you ever tried making your favorite Italian dishes at home? Well, here are some essential tools every cook should have in his or her arsenal.


A mezzaluna is a single, curved blade with a handle on each end. Although some variations can have 2 or even 3 blades, the most common ones just have one. The mezzaluna, Italian for “half-moon” (hence, its shape) is mostly used to chop or mince herbs, vegetables and occasionally meats and cheese. You’ve probably seen videos of mezzaluna used to cut pizza in commercials or on TV. The biggest advantage of using a mezzaluna is that works quicker and easier than a normal knife. Plus, you’re not endangering your hands or getting them dirty — especially beneficial when working with hot peppers and other spicy/smelly ingredients.

Wine Opener

Saluti! Any good Italian chef will have a wine opener, with which to open…well, wine bottles. Yes, wine is often paired with homemade Italian food and is frequently drunk before, during and even (long) after the meal. But your chef doesn’t just need the wine opener to serve the table — wine is a staple ingredient in many Italian dishes including pasta sauces, seafood, veal and so much more. A very large number of authentic recipes will probably require wine, so get your corkscrew ready!

Pasta Machine

Pasta is essential. It’s delicious, but sometimes the boxes of dried spaghetti in your local grocery store just don’t cut it. So for something more fresh, invest in a pasta machine. Unless you love tediously cutting dough into individual noodles (like grandma used to do in the old country), then save yourself some time and effort — especially if you’re cooking for multiple people. You’re still able to make your own homemade dough, but the pasta machine will press it into noodles for you while you focus on other, more important tasks at hand; and you’ll notice the difference. Handmade pasta is just tastier. You can take our word for it or come by and try it yourself!

Large Pots and Strainers

We figured that this goes without saying, but you can’t make pasta without cooking pots and strainers. Whether cooking the pasta noodles, simmering a sauce, or throwing together a stew/soup, multiple large and durable pots are a must-have. Strainers and colanders need no explanation, just make sure you clean the sink that the pasta noodles are drained into. 

Ravioli Stamp/Cutter

If you plan on making professional-grade ravioli, or even just acceptable ravioli, get a quality ravioli cutter. Known in Italy as “stampi per ravioli”, they help both the integrity of the dumpling as well as the appearance. They also allow for ease and speed when it comes time to cut, fill and seal the homemade dough pockets, whipping up the delicious dumplings in a relatively short amount of time. This tool is absolutely essential for any ravioli lover.

These are just some of the absolute essential tools that you’ll find in any Italian kitchen. However, if you don’t feel like putting in the work, feel free to reserve a table at La Buona Vita! Whether for a casual dining experience or for private parties and catering for special occasions, we’ll accommodate you and cook a delicious, homemade Italian meal. Get in touch to learn more.

5 Of The Weirdest Italian Foods You Probably Won’t Find In Restaurants

We always like to talk about our favorite Italian dishes — our top vegetarian ones, best regional specialties, how to pair wine with your foods, etc…but what about the weirdest dishes? Every culture has certain foods that just seem odd or downright gross to outsiders and Italian cuisine is no exception. Here is a list of 5 of the weirdest Italian delicacies that you probably won’t find in US restaurants.


Pajata, or otherwise known as unweaned calf intestines, are a Roman delicacy that is most often served with rigatoni. The intestines are cleaned, but the chyme (acidic intestinal fluids) are left in, and because the calves have only ever consumed their mothers’ milk, it creates a creamy, cheese-like sauce inside.

Pajata was actually banned for a while, due to the mad cow disease epidemic in 2001. However, in 2015 the ban was lifted and this Roman delicacy has been slowly making a comeback. It is typically served either grilled and seasoned, or over rigatoni with a tomato-based sauce.


Trippa, Italian for tripe, is the muscle wall of the first few chambers of a cow’s stomach. Although the term ‘tripe’ refers specifically to cows, other animals’ stomachs are also commonly cooked and eaten in various dishes throughout the world, including deer, sheep, antelope, giraffes and others.

Tripe was a very common dish among the poor in 1950s Italy, because it was very cheap to buy and it not only provided a main course, but during cooking it also gave off a broth, which was commonly used to season rice and bread. Since then, tripe has become a sort of delicacy and it is often served at high-end Italian restaurants.

One of the most common tripe dishes in Italian cuisine is Trippa alla Romana (tripe Roman style) which is tripe cooked in minced onion, crushed tomatoes and white wine.

Casu Marzu

Casu marzu might be one of the most fascinating of the weird Italian delicacies. It comes from Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean, and the term literally translates to “rotten cheese”. This is because it has…wait for it…maggots inside of it. Yes, you read that right.

The process to create casu marzu is surprisingly tedious. You begin by forming a large hunk of pecorino cheese and allowing it to cure for about 3 weeks. During this time, the outside of the cheese will form a hard crust, but the soft cheese inside remains intact. You then cut off the top crust and remove it, exposing the interior. The cheese then sits open for about 3 months, during which time flies feed on and lay eggs inside. Once the larvae hatch, they begin to feed off of it. The rotten cheese passes through the larvae bodies, giving casu marzu its unique texture and flavor. The soft cheese is then served, commonly spread on crackers or bread.

In case you’re wondering, yes, the cheese is served with the maggots still inside — and no, you don’t remove them before eating. For this reason, the production and consumption of casu marzu has been banned in many countries due to health concerns with eating maggots. Regardless, this sardinian tradition still lives on in the region.

For a fascinating look at the casu marzu creation process, check out this clip from Gordon Ramsay’s show The F-Word.

Sanguinaccio Dolce

Remember the good old days when you were a kid, running around with friends without a care in the world, and you were excited to get a tasty treat of chocolate pudding? Well if you grew up in some regions of Italy, that chocolate pudding would be sanguinaccio dolce — chocolate pudding with pig’s blood. It is very rich, sweet and yet salty with a very slightly metallic flavor (from the blood, of course).

But why blood? What’s wrong with just good old-fashioned plain chocolate pudding? Well, sanguinaccio dolce comes from an old tradition where Italian towns would have pork festivals, where they slaughtered pigs and made all types of foods for the community. They would use every bit of the pigs, including their blood, to make blood sausages and, well, sanguinaccio dolce.

Pig’s blood is commonly found available for purchase in Asian markets and Polish delis/butcher shops.

Cervelli Fritti

If you speak any Italian, you know that “cervelli fritti” directly translates to “fried brains” — which is NOT at all a euphemism or metaphor. Cervelli fritti are the brains of calves, lambs, or veal cut into bite-sized pieces, which are then breaded and fried. The frying process turns the brain into a ricotta-like treat and is very rich in flavor.

The Best Seasonal Italian Foods

Although enjoyable throughout the entire year, some Italian delicacies are best served in particular seasons; especially when it comes to certain seasonal fruits and veggies. Here we’ll go over some of the Italian top seasonal ingredients as well as some key dishes you can expect to enjoy at any given time of year.

Ideal Summer Italian Foods

As the heat starts to bring on the sweat, Italians tend to eat lighter. They mostly consume fresh fruit and veggies (figs and cherries tend to be big), seafood, salads and lighter/oily pastas:

    • Panzanella: one of the most popular Italian summer dishes, panzanella is a chopped salad that includes: stale bread that is soaked in water and then squeezed dry, onion, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, salt, pepper, vinegar, and other veggies. Its exact recipe varies depending on who makes it.
    • Eggplant Parmesan: a classic Italian entree, eggplant parmesan is sliced eggplant that’s breaded and fried. It’s then served in tomato sauce on top of pasta.
    • Summer Farro Salad: farro is a grain similar to rice. Italians love to use it in a variety of dishes from entrees to salads to soups. A summer farro salad is quick and easy to make, it’s filling and it’s healthy. After all, the main ingredients are farro, cucumber, tomato, basil and vinegar. Add in a few key spices and you’ve got a delicious lunch!
    • Bruschetta: yet another staple appetizer in Italian cuisine, summertime is the best time to order bruschetta — fresh basil and tomatoes are at their peak!
  • Gelato: And lastly but certainly not least, we have gelato. Whether as a post-dinner dessert or as a midday delicacy, an ice cold gelato (s type of Italian ice cream) will refresh you on any hot summer day.

Hearty Winter Italian Foods

During chilly beginnings each year, you can expect to find comfort food — something hot, hearty and filling that’ll keep a little fat on the bones to keep warm. Soups and meaty sauces with pasta tend to dominate the winter months — here are a few of the top choices:

    • Pasta: served with a hearty Bolognese sauce and homemade meatballs
    • Gnocchi alla Romana: this dish differs from classic gnocchi dumplings because the dough is cut into thicker, larger discs, topped with cheese and creamy sauce and baked in the oven. If that doesn’t do it for you, serve it with meatballs — that’ll really get your mouth watering!
    • Panettone: this sweet bread originates in Milan and is traditionally served at Christmastime.  
  • Farro and bean soup (Zuppe di Farro): hearty, thick soups filled with ground pork, beef, beans and vegetables are very commonplace in winter Italian cuisine. This soup in particular will warm the cockles of your heart and fill your stomach with lots of bean variations and veggies.

Spring Italian Foods

Springtime is one of the most positive times of year in Italy. It’s not too hot, not too cold, flowers start to bloom, and of course, a lot of great foods are in-season. Italian spring brings with it harvests of artichokes, asparagus, fennel, peas and many many others. Seafood starts to become commonplace as the weather starts to warm. You’ll find that food becomes less hearty and heavy than those thick winter sauces and soups.

    • Vignarola: this is an Italian spring vegetable stew that’s perfect for the transition out of cold weather and into the warmth. Although recipes can vary, the key ingredients include fava beans, peas and artichokes, since they’re at their ripest at this time of year.
    • Abbacchio: this meaty delicacy has its origins in Rome. It’s a type of roast lamb often served, with potatoes, around Easter.
    • Risotto: this is another classic Italian dish. It’s rice that’s cooked in broth with a creamy consistency, often including chopped vegetables and cheese.
  • Anything with asparagus in it. Seriously. Italians love asparagus and springtime is when it becomes available.

Italian Delicacies of Fall

As the leaves start to turn and it becomes chilly outdoors, Italians turn toward vegetables that may not surprise you. Pumpkin, butternut squash, mushrooms, chestnuts, truffles, fennel, porcini, and thick soups become very commonplace.

    • Risotto: yes, risotto was already on this list. But the fact that it’s on here again speaks to the multi-faceted ways Italians create it. Pumpkin risotto is especially delicious during the fall.
    • Chicken Cacciatore: “cacciatore” translates to “hunter” in Italian. So when a food has “cacciatore” in it, it describes that dish as being prepared and served in a “hunter style”, meaning it’s served with onions, herbs, tomatoes, bell peppers and garlic.
  • Hearty soups: as the weather turns cold and the sun sets faster, Italians take comfort in increasingly heartier soups. They’re often made with the veggies described above as well as some sort of meat: chicken, veal, beef or pork.

The Origins of Pizza

Pizza is one of the most commonly liked foods in the United States. It’s such a staple food that everyone from children at birthday parties to adults in the workplace get excited at the possibility of a pizza party. In fact, there are just over 61,000 pizzerias across the country and, on average, approximately 3 BILLION pizzas are sold each year in the US.

Pizza in La Grange, IL

But as you bite into that warm, saucy, cheesy goodness, have you ever wondered about the history of pizza and how it became so universally beloved? Well, we have. So put on your reading glasses and grab a plate — we’re about to serve you a piping hot slice of history.

The Beginning

Pizza’s first form was similar to modern focaccia. While many presume that pizza originated in Italy, many cultures in the middle east and all around the Mediterranean created derivative forms of modern pizza.

Ancient Greek, Israelis, Egyptians and other cultures produced flatbread in mud ovens, added regional seasonings then topped it with olive oil, thick stews, and vegetables. It was cheap, convenient, and sustainable, making it ideal for the working class poor.

Much debate surrounds the etymology of the word “pizza.” Some argue it derives from the Greek “pitta” bread, some argue it’s origins lie in the Latin “pinsere” (“to clamp or pound”). There are many other theories, but one thing is for sure — the first documented use of the word “pizza” was in 997 AD in a Latin text found in the town of Gaeta, Italy while it was under Byzantine control.

The Road to Pizza Modernization

As time went on, the more modern forms of pizza started to take shape. Modern pizza’s origins are in the 1700s in Naples. It’s important to note that at the time, pizza was still regarded as a poor man’s food, commonly sold by street vendors and considered disgusting by high society. The working class in Naples were the ones that started adding tomatoes (a relatively new vegetable/fruit in the region), garlic, cheese and other tasty toppings, to their flatbreads.

After ages of political strife, Italy finally unified in 1861 and, according to legend, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita (does her name sound familiar yet?) visited Naples in 1889. The two grew bored with their constant diet of high-society cuisine, so requested an assortment of local food varieties.

Italian Pizza La Grange

Queen Margherita became smitten with ‘pizza mozzarella’, a flatbread topped with soft white cheese, tomatoes, olive oil and basil. This pizza eventually became known as the ‘pizza Margherita’. Her proclivity for the food is speculated to have started a pizza craze in Naples and may have helped break down classist cuisine barriers in the region. Pizza was finally commonplace in Naples.

Pizza Takes a Trip to America

Although pizza-like dishes had been a staple food for centuries in the mediterranean region, especially in Naples, it was largely unknown to the rest of the world. It’s no surprise then that the first pizzerias in the US sprouted in communities heavily concentrated with Italian immigrants. They started to put regional twists on the classic neapolitan dish which started to pique interests of the surrounding non-immigrant communities.

After World War II, Italians started to immigrate to all corners of America, bringing their cuisines with them. At the same time, American soldiers that had served in Italy became acquainted with local foods, especially pizza. Once the veterans returned home, they would still seek out local pizzerias, encouraging non-immigrants to try it. It’s stigma as an “ethnic food” quickly vanished as it integrated with the American palate. This is when modern pizza really took shape and its popularity started to boom. Eventually, the 1960s marked the era of home pizza delivery services, and the rest is history.

Pizza has always been a staple product throughout human history — from the most basic ancient forms of flatbread topped with oil and cheese, to today’s modern deep dish, thin crust, brick oven and other variations. So the next time you pick up a slice, take some joy in participating in an age-old tradition.

Closing Out the Meal: Italian Digestivi

We discussed in a recent post that in Italian culture, the meal is a well-rounded, flavorful and enjoyable community event. Food and drink constantly complement one another throughout the meal to create a more enhanced experience. Meals often begin with aperitivi, a type of pre-dinner cocktail that prepares the appetite for the (usually) multi-course meal. But after the meal, Italians also enjoy what’s called a digestivo. As you may gather just from the name, the digestivo purportedly aids in digestion as a bitter, alcoholic, post-meal drink.

The type of digestivo most common in Italy are called amari (plural for “amaro,” meaning “bitter”), a type of bitter, herbal Italian liqueur. They are made by infusing grapes with various types of natural herbs, spices, roots, bark, flowers and citrus peels. The mixture is soaked in alcohol, sugar syrup is added and then it’s aged for a period, sometimes for months, sometimes for years depending on the liqueur.

The taste is often described as medicinal, and for good reason. Amari have their roots in ancient Rome. It would be used as medicine and was said to treat various ailments including stomach aches. Eventually, Italians started sipping small amounts of amari after dinner to increase digestive efficiency and the tradition stuck. Hundreds of variations of amari exist today, but we wanted to touch on a few of the more popular ones.


This sweet liqueur comes from Sicily and is named after its original distributor, Salvatore Averna. The recipe was invented in the 1800s by Sicilian monks who thought the concoction had medicinal properties. In 1868 they gave the recipe to Averna, who started to produce it in his home and began distributing it.

Today it is made from citrus rinds, roots and herbs that are soaked in a base liquor and caramel is added afterward. Averna is thick, sweet and slightly bitter.


Originating in 1885, this particular amaro is made from 40 different herbs and flowers from around the world, the exact ingredients kept secret. Its taste is described as, “A wide range of bittersweet flavors including orange peel, coriander, and tea.” It is currently produced in Bologna, Italy.


While this amaro boasts 27 roots, herbs and spices, the full recipe is kept secret. However, the known herbs are chamomile, cinnamon, china, galanga, iris, myrrh, rhubarb, linden flowers, saffron, zedoary, and aloe ferox. Invented in 1845, this sharp and bitter liqueur was originally used as medicine to treat stomach pain and flatulence. The first taste is described as overwhelmingly bitter, but slowly starts to turn sweet as you drink it — despite having less sugar content than most other amari. It’s most commonly found in cocktails: “Hanky Panky”, “Toronto” and “Fanciulli”.


Cynar is made from 13 different plants, the main one being artichoke hearts. Interestingly, this is where it gets its name. The Latin term for artichoke is “cynara scolymus”. This unique drink is most prevalent in cocktails, especially in the German and Swiss regions, where it’s commonly mixed with orange juice. Because of its unique flavor profile, it is actually considered both an aperitivo and a digestivo. Its taste is described as bitter (of course), light and sweet with a strong herbal flavor.

There are many variations of liqueur and craft cocktail within the Italian culture that are meant to enhance your overall dining experience. If you have interest in partaking in authentic Italian cuisine, stop by or reserve a table.

Starting the Meal Off Right: Italian Aperitivi

In Italian culture, food isn’t just a way of sustaining yourself. It’s about having an experience — and sharing that experience with friends and loved ones. Italians love all-encompassing meals; their structure consists of many different courses with small portions, all consisting of their own unique flavors, utilizing drinks and other methods to enhance flavors and enrich the dining experience as a whole.

One such type of drink is referred to as “aperitivo” (plural: aperitivi) — a category of beverage that’s consumed before the meal begins. The word derives from the Latin verb “aperire”, which means “to open”. This is exactly what aperitivi do to begin the flavorful journey of an Italian meal — they stimulate the appetite.


Prosecco is an Italian sparkling white wine that originated in the small town of Prosecco, Italy, from where the grape originates. It’s served chilled and is best consumed while young — typically within 3 years of it being bottled — since it grows stale. It carries a low alcohol content and is perfect for whetting the appetite. It can also be used as a champagne replacement and is the main ingredient in spritzes and Bellini cocktails.


Categorized as a bitters, Campari is an Italian alcoholic liqueur that is made from infusing herbs and fruit with water. It has a deep red coloration and is commonly served as a cocktail: Campari and soda water, Campari with citrus juice, or as a spritz (Campari + prosecco).


Aperol is similar to Campari but it is made out of bitter orange, rhubarb, gentian, cinchona and other spices. Its origins lie in Padua, a city in northern Italy just west of Venice. Aperol has half the alcohol content of Campari, is less bitter, and is commonly served as a cocktail called Aperol Spritz.


Vermouth is a category of aromatic wine that originally comes from Turin, Italy. It was originally used as medicine during the 18th century, but quickly made its way into popular cocktails and has been a key aperitivo ever since. It’s main flavors come from botanicals — roots, spices, barks, flowers, seeds, and herbs. Today there are various types of vermouth, ranging in flavors and dryness. It’s typically a main ingredient in cocktails such as the martini, manhattan, negroni and Americano.

All of these drinks are sure to wet your whistle to help whet your appetite. The next time you’re looking to have the fully enriched Italian dining experience, aperitivi and all, reserve a table at La Buona Vita. Come experience authentic Italian cuisine in downtown La Grange.

The 4 Most Popular Vegetarian Italian Dishes

Sure, Italians love their meats — meaty lasagna and ravioli, prosciutto, steak, meatballs, chicken, various seafoods, etc. — it may sometimes feel like a carnivore’s paradise. But vegetarians aren’t at a loss when it comes to eating Italian dishes. In fact, many Italian dishes can go meatless and still be delicious. And there are even more options that are made strictly vegetarian.

Caprese Salad

Start your meal off the right way with delicious caprese salad — juicy roma tomatoes, freshly sliced mozzarella cheese, basil, cucumbers, kalamata olives, a pinch of salt and a tart balsamic vinaigrette. Your mouth is probably watering just thinking about it, and rightfully so. It’s one of the most favored appetizers at any Italian restaurant. It’s healthy, delicious and completely meatless.

Eggplant Parmigiana

A lot of people love chicken parmigiana and veal parmigiana. Well, make a variant of that by replacing the meat with eggplant for a delectable entree enjoyed by vegetarians and meat eaters alike. It’s prepared by slicing an eggplant and frying it in a pan with some oil, herbs and spices. It’s then layered with tomato sauce and either mozzarella or parmesan cheese and baked in an oven. It’s then served over pasta. This incredible entree is a favorite in Italian-American cuisine and is a more-than-worthy alternative to the meat variations.

Eggplant Parmigiana from La Buona Vita


These small yet dense potato dumplings can be prepared in a wide variety of ways. The word gnocchi derives from the Italian “nocca”, meaning “knuckle” — referring to the way they look. The dumplings are most commonly made from flour, egg, cheese, potato and breadcrumbs, combined with any number of spices and herbs depending on the chef’s preferences. It can be served with any number of sauces, though we like to top it with tomato basil sauce. Gnocchi is commonly served as an appetizer in Italy, although it also makes a great vegetarian entree!

Fettuccini Alfredo

This pasta dish is exactly what it sounds like — fettuccini noodles topped with creamy alfredo sauce. We previously covered fettuccini noodles in a post about popular pasta types, but they’re essentially long and flat noodles. The rich alfredo sauce is prepared by tossing the noodles with butter and parmesan cheese. As the heat melts the cheese, it mixes with the butter to coat the long, thin noodles. It’s then topped with herbs and spices — and that’s it! It’s one of the simplest, most traditional pasta variations that’s been around for centuries. If you’re vehemently against vegetarianism, you can add slices of grilled chicken to satisfy your carnivorous needs.

These aren’t the only vegetarian dishes in the Italian food repertoire, but they’re some favorites. By now you’re probably starving just thinking of these scrumptious meals — luckily, La Buona Vita makes and serves all of these dishes fresh, so come on down and bring the family. We’re itching to fulfill all your vegetarian needs and beyond!

Cannoli, Tiramisu, Biscotti – Oh My! Italian Desserts in La Grange, IL

Are you hosting a meal or cooking for a date and looking to impress? End your dinner with any of these essential Italian desserts to add a sweet grand finale to your meal!


Originating from Sicily, these scrumptious, tubular desserts are a classic in the Italian food repertoire. They’re made of lightly fried, crispy pastry dough, used as a shell that’s rolled around a custard filling and topped with nuts, chocolate shavings, dustings powdered sugar, or all of the above! They’re served chilled so the custard retains its shape and are best eaten with coffee or an Italian dessert wine.

Cannoli from La Buona Vita

If you’re looking for a delicious dessert that’s relatively easy to prepare, look no further. You’ll have guests saying, “leave the entree, take the cannoli.”


Literally translating to “pick me up” or “cheer me up”, this elegant staple Italian dessert is coffee-flavored, light and delicious. It’s a type of cake that’s composed of layered custard and ladyfinger biscuits that have been dipped in a strong coffee or espresso and topped with cocoa powder.

Tiramisu from La Buona Vita

It’s simple to make, but be sure to make it early in the day before you make dinner — tiramisu needs to chill in the refrigerator for around 6 hours before serving. It makes for a delectable sweetness after a hearty meal, bringing a satisfying close to your dinner.


Biscotti - Italian Baked GoodBiscotti are hard, sweet and dry almond-studded biscuits that are traditionally served with Vin Santo, an Italian dessert wine, into which the biscotti are dipped. However in places outside of Italy, particularly in the US, they are often served with coffee.

Fun fact: “biscotti” is actually the plural form of “biscotto”, which originates from the Latin term “biscoctus”, meaning “twice-cooked”. This is why biscotti are so hard and dry, making them perfect for dipping; they are, quite literally, baked twice. If you’re not looking for a filling dessert, biscotti are perfect — they’re light and delicious, giving a taste of post-meal sweetness to conclude a fine dining experience.


Before you continue: it’s not the same as ice cream, even though it’s very similar.

There. Now, we may proceed. Gelato is creamier, smoother and far denser than typical American ice cream. It doesn’t contain as much fat, egg yolks are not used and it’s served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream. It’s created in a similar way to ice cream, though it’s churned much slower to allow more air to escape, giving it the thick and dense quality.

On the hunt for additional Italian dessert ideas? Check out our dessert menu at La Buona Vita! it’ll make you want to stop in and try one today!