exterior of la buona vita at night

Popular Italian Pasta Types and How They’re Served

Rigatoni, fettuccine, linguine, oh my! Pasta is an Italian staple food and the many different types can vary based on region. Some noodles are ideal for some sauces but not with others. Reading through a pasta menu can be confusing, and if you’re unfamiliar with Italian cuisine, you may not know what to expect when you place your order. Here we’ll highlight some of the most popular noodles so you know what you’re ordering and what to buy while shopping!

How to Cook Long Noodles

What to do with Long Noodles

  • Spaghetti – Arguably the most well known of all the pastas, spaghetti is a thin, long noodle that is best prepared with tomato-based sauces. Think spaghetti and meatballs.
  • Fettuccini – This noodle is long, but wide and flat. It’s most commonly served with hearty, thick cream sauces such as alfredo. However, it’s fairly versatile and can also pairs well with a garlic and oil sauce.
  • Linguine – Lying somewhere between fettuccine and spaghetti, linguine is long and wide. It’s not round and it’s not flat — it’s more of an oval shape in section. It’s often served with seafood and light oil-based sauces rather than hearty, thick cheese and tomato sauces.
  • Angel Hair – Angel hair pasta is a very thin, long noodle — about half the width of spaghetti. It’s best used with light and oil-based sauces, best served with seafood and sauteed vegetables.

Cooking with Shaped Noodles

How To Eat Shaped Noodles

  • Rigatoni – This pasta is tube-shaped with ridges along the side, sometimes forming a spiral pattern so they can better soak up and retain thick sauce such as pesto or thick cream sauces.
  • Lasagna – Lasagna noodles are used to create one of the most popular italian dishes ever to be beloved by a cartoon cat. The noodles are long and flat, usually about 4 inches thick. Lasagna noodles are layered between spreads of hearty meat (or vegetarian) sauce and ricotta.
  • Penne – Penne pasta is one of the most versatile noodles in the Italian inventory. It’s a tubular pasta, similar to rigatoni but smaller. But unlike rigatoni, it does not have ridges to retain thick sauces. It can be used in soups and with pasta sauces of virtually any kind.

How to Cook With Dumpling Shaped Pasta

What To Do with Dumpling Noodles

  • Ravioli – Another extremely popular Italian dish, ravioli can be either square or circular-shaped. They act like small pockets stuffed with meat and cheese, sealed and topped with any sauce.
  • Gnocchi – These hearty noodles are potato-based, small dumplings about half the size of your thumb. They can be served with any type of sauce.
  • Tortellini – Round and hearty, these noodles are usually stuffed with cheese and are served with any number of creamy, cheesy or tomato sauces. They can also be served cold with oily sauces or even in pasta salads.

These are just some of the more popular noodles within the realm of Italian cuisine. Though there are many more to explore, you’ll find all of these on Italian restaurant menus and you’ll know what to expect. And if you don’t feel like cooking tonight, stop on by and let the experts do it for you!

A Guide to Common Italian Food Pronunciation

How many times have you gone to a restaurant and had NO idea how to pronounce the menu items, feeling like a fool? You make an attempt, but the wait staff doesn’t understand, then you get confused and it’s an all-around embarrassing situation. It happens to us all at least once, but we’re here to help you avoid social faux pas with our handy-dandy guide to common italian food pronunciation. You’ll never have to feel embarrassed in front of a date again!

  • Bruschetta (broo-SKEH-tah)
  • Gnocci (nyaw-key)
  • Pasta e Fagioli (pah-stah ay fah-jolie)
  • Prosciutto (pro-SHOOT-oh)
  • Frutti di Mare (froo-tee dee mah-ray)
  • Insalata Caprese (in-sal-atah kuh-PREY-zay)
  • Parmigiana (par-MIDGE-ah-nah)
  • Minestrone (mee-neh-STRAW-nee)

These are some of the most commonly mispronounced Italian dishes. But if you’re ever ordering and still don’t know how to say what you want, just ask! Our knowledgeable wait staff will help you out and will know what you mean — they’re used to it. We’re here to help you have an enjoyable, comfortable dining experience!

Tips on Hosting a Successful Dinner Party

Have you ever been to a successful dinner party and wondered how the host is so relaxed? If you’ve ever tried hosting before, you know it can be very stressful and, depending on the crowd, you’ll feel some pressure to be successful. A lot can go wrong, but we’re here to quell any fears you may have. With these handy dandy tips, your friends will be the ones walking out wondering how you were so relaxed.

Plan, plan, plan

Any event’s success, big or small, hinges on planning. Make a timeline of when guests should arrive, when to serve the meal, dessert, and any post-party games you might have in mind. Other things to know:

  • Figure out the atmosphere you’d like. Formal or informal? Establish the guest list.
  • What will you serve? It’s normally safer to cook something you’re familiar with. Now’s not the time to go on culinary adventures into uncharted territory. Unless you’re a master chef, no one makes a dish perfectly the first time and you’re not looking to impress your guests with your lack of forethought.
  • On the day of, lay out all ingredients you need so cooking is speedy and you’ll know if you need a last-minute trip to the store.
  • Do all prep cooking and wash utensils beforehand to avoid tons of clean up later.
  • Set up a separate table with appetizers and wine/cocktails away from the kitchen so there’s no foot traffic while you’re trying to cook.
  • Pre-make dessert the day before (if possible) and refrigerate it so you don’t have to spend time in the kitchen as people converse and digest your incredible main course.
  • If you want to go the extra mile, have safe transportation readily available in the area — especially if the wine/cocktails are flowing.


Ah, the “dinner” part of the dinner party. Figure out what you’ll be serving and get the ingredients a day or two before the party. Then you’ll have to time everything out on the day of. Pre-prepare as much as possible (remember the timeline you should have already created!) A few other things to note:

Pollo al Vesuvio from La Buona Vita

  • Keep in mind any dietary restrictions your guests may have, and offer options for them.
  • Start with appetizers, hors d’oeuvres and a lighter wine. This gives you a chance to start cooking the main course while your guests enjoy themselves for a half hour or so.
  • Be sure to pair a good wine with whatever entree you choose. You can see our quick and easy wine and food pairing guide for more on this.
  • If more than 5 or 6 people are attending, you can have them bring items or even appetizers so you can focus your attention on the main course.


You’ve planned the entire evening to a T and have selected your specialty as the main meal. Great! Now what about the rest of the house? Create the ideal atmosphere for your guests — welcoming and cozy.

  • Make an appropriate playlist, but don’t blast it (unless it turns into a dance party later on). You don’t want to overpower the conversation.
  • Clean up your house. No good dinner party has unfolded laundry all over the couch. Make the space tidy and pleasant.
  • Empty your trash and make sure your dishwasher and sink are ready to rock. As soon as the party is over, get the pesky dishes out of the way and wash them before bed. You’ll thank yourself later.
  • Light candles or turn on the fireplace to set a relaxed mood, if appropriate.
  • Don’t spend the entire evening in the dining room. After dinner, move dessert and coffee/drinks into the living room where people can relax on a comfy couch, socialize and play games.

Remember that the ultimate goal of your party is to relax and have fun. And the same goes for you! There’s no reason you should be stressed all night — you should enjoy yourself as well, and it’ll be easier if you plan everything ahead of time. If this all really sounds like too much and is totally out of your wheelhouse, you can always have your party catered by La Buona Vita. We’ll guarantee a delicious meal without cooking and prep on your end.

A Beginner’s Guide to Food and Wine Pairings to Impress Your Guests

How to Pair Your Food and Wine

Appetizers? Check. Entree? Check. Wine? Uhhh…

You’re finally getting around to hosting that dinner party you’ve been promising to your friends. Sure, you can cook (or call a caterer), but you have no idea what wine to serve with the meal. You want to deliver the best possible experience for your guests and know that certain wines with certain foods will mutually enhance flavors, but how do you know which ones? Don’t fret — we’re here to help. This trusty beginner’s wine/food pairing guide is guaranteed to make your guests think you’re secretly a sommelier.

Popular Red Wines

Chianti – This bold, well-rounded and flavorful wine is often served with red, tomato-based sauces. However, it also pairs well with creamy and oil-based sauces, as well as oily seafood dishes.

Zinfandel – Spicy and deep with berry flavors, this wine pairs perfectly with thick, tomato-based red sauces. But steer clear of creamy or oily sauces!

Food with Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon – This red wine is a world favorite because of its versatility with different foods. It will enhance hearty and rich meals — cuts of red meat (steaks, ribs, brisket), tomato-based red sauces, duck, and more.

Pinot Noir – Another great, versatile wine because it’s a light red. It goes well with either tomato-based, creamy, or oil-based sauces.

White Wines

Pinot Grigio – Best served with lighter seafood or creamy and oil sauces. Lemon chicken piccata, halibut and smoked salmon are all fantastic with a good pinot grigio. It can also go well with light red sauces.

Chardonnay – This is arguably one of the most favorite wines to pair with food because it has so many sub-varieties under the “chardonnay” umbrella. It works very well with a variety of dishes — mainly creamy or oily ones. Shellfish, grilled fish, vegetable pasta or risotto, creamy soups and sauces are some of the best pairings. While tomato sauces are better paired with other wines, you could get away with using a chardonnay with a very light red sauce.

Wine & Food Pairing

Sauvignon Blanc – This very light white wine is perfect with most cheeses, salads, and light seafood and shellfish. Most lighter risotto dishes, artichokes, asparagus, and green veggies will be enhanced by a sauvignon blanc’s flavor.

Wine and food pairings can get very specific depending on a wine’s region, the subsets of each wine type, etc. We’ve barely scratched the surface here, but this beginner’s guide is sure to set you on the right path toward entertaining your guests.

The Health Benefits of an Italian Diet

Italian food isn’t one of America’s favorite foreign cuisines just because it’s delicious — it’s also nutritious. Its dishes are packed with a variety of nutrients from fresh vegetables, colorful fruits, lean meats, oily fish and fiber-rich grains. A Mediterranean diet promotes weight loss, heart health and longevity.

There are a few key, staple ingredients in Italian cuisine that have substantial health benefits.

Health Benefits of Italian Foods

Garlic Health Benefits

Garlic delivers nutrients such as Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Manganese, sulfides and fiber plus many more with very low calorie count. It also has antibiotic properties and is a key player in heart health, since it lowers cholesterol.

Its delicious flavor is heavily relied upon in Italian cuisine and it can be found in most Mediterranean dishes in some form.


Traditional Italian meals deliver protein largely through fish and seafood. Fish such as tuna or salmon are rich with omega-3-fatty acids, which are linked with reducing high blood pressure, preventing heart disease and stroke.

Meanwhile, other seafood such as shrimp and mussels provide essential B12 vitamins, are high in protein, and are relatively low in calorie and fat content.  


Whether in sauce, salad, on bruschetta or any number of dishes, tomatoes are one of the major ingredients in the entirety of Italian cuisine. They are a great source of vitamins A, C, K, potassium, the list goes on and on. Tomatoes also contain lycopene, a type of antioxidant that protects cells from being damaged, hence much research around it in preventing cancer.

Olive Oil

Replace butter with extra virgin olive oil while cooking to lower bad cholesterol and boost good cholesterol. Instead of pouring heaps of ranch dressing onto your salad, try a few spritzes of olive oil with some cracked pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Olive oil has a ton of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, which are a healthy alternative to trans fats you’ll find in other, processed foods.

Red Wine

Health Benefits of Red Wine

What would your Italian meal be without a glass of red wine? Not only does it taste great, but it’s also heart healthy — in moderation, of course. Too much alcohol has very negative effects on the body, but a glass of red wine with dinner is filled with antioxidants and resveratrol, which help prevent damage to blood vessels.

Eating Italian cuisine has numerous physical health benefits, but it also positively affects mental health. In traditional Italian dinner culture, eating is a community event that promotes bringing families together to socialize and enjoy each other’s company. So book a table and bring your loved ones to La Buona Vita to enjoy a heart-healthy and social meal.

How to Plan and Throw the Perfect Baby Shower

Baby shower setup at La Buona Vita

How to Plan a Baby Shower

Being selected to host the baby shower for a mother-to-be is a great honor–but with that honor comes the imposing task of planning and hosting a baby shower that is fun and festive while appropriately celebrating the upcoming birth. Though party planning for a baby shower can seem daunting, taking a step-by-step approach can help cut down on the stress and ensure that your celebration is a smashing success.

1. Pick a date

The absolutely first step in planning a baby shower is choosing the date and time. Consult with the mother-to-be to find out what works best for her (and the father-to-be, if the party is to be co-ed). Baby showers are typically held around the seventh month of pregnancy, so target a date near that time.

2. Narrow down the guest list and budget

Working with the mother-to-be, figure out who should be invited — and be sure you get all the necessary addresses and emails, too! Once you know how many people you’ll be hosting, set your budget so that you can move on to planning the venue, menu and other baby shower details.

3. Select a venue

Narrowing down the right party location among all the places to host a baby shower available to you can be challenging. A smaller guest list works well with a baby shower held at home, whether yours or that of another close friend or family member of the mother-to-be. For a larger guest lists or to ensure a fancier affair, choosing a nearby restaurant that hosts special events can create a memorable baby shower setting.

4. Send out invitations

Once the date, guest list and venue are set, it’s time to send out invitations! Aim to have the invitations in your guests’ hands by six weeks prior to the party. While e-mail invitations are perfectly acceptable, paper invites can add a special touch for a special day.

5. Plan the menu and party decorations

As with any other party, one of the most important parts of planning a baby shower is choosing the menu. The easiest way to ensure the best food for your guests if you’re hosting the shower at home is choosing an event catering service that can bring delicious and festive food to you with no work on your part. Having trouble selecting a theme for the decor? Seek inspiration from the year’s hottest baby shower trends, including tropical decor, whimsical boho floral settings and sophisticated monochromatic decorations.

6. Organize a party schedule and choose favors

Having a rough agenda for your baby shower ensures that everyone has fun while avoiding any unnecessary lulls. Plan for a buffer after the party is scheduled to start to allow for latecomers, then move right into games (if planned), food and gift opening. Favors are a great way to thank everyone for attending. Edible treats are always a hit, and trendy ideas for yummy favors include mini fruit pies and tubes of jelly beans in the party’s theme colors.

Still looking for the perfect place to host a baby shower? La Buona Vita, the premier northern Italian restaurant in La Grange, specializes in hosting special occasion dinners designed to provide your guests with an unforgettable time. Our private dining experience offers seating for up to 80 with delectable dishes from our expansive banquet menu and complete access to our full bar. Throwing a baby shower at home? La Buona Vita caters! Make your party planning easier and let us bring a memorable meal to you that uses the same superb ingredients, homemade pasta and authentic northern Italian recipes that can be found in our restaurant.

Out & About in La Grange – Summertime Events

If you’re not familiar with the La Grange area, you’re missing a gem. People say that Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and that tradition has blossomed in this gorgeous western suburb. There are quaint shops, plenty of activities for every lifestyle, and the restaurants in La Grange offer an eclectic mix for every taste and budget.

The summer months in La Grange are jam packed with fests, carnivals, artistic endeavors, and events that have a little something for anyone. Local residents get the chance to socialize and people come from all over the state to participate in some of the events hosted here. Whether you’re looking for great entertainment, live music, family centered fun, or to treat yourself to sampling some of the amazing food at local La Grange restaurants, there’s a lot you’ll love that’s going on in the area this summer.

Great La Grange Summer Events You Won’t Want to Miss

There’s always something going on in La Grange. The downtown area is the ideal place to walk because there are a bevy of eclectic shops and restaurants all throughout the area. Any afternoon can become an adventure here. If you’re looking for planned events, here are some things to add to your summer calendar.

  • Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s Market in La Grange runs from the beginning of May through the end of October every year. This outdoor market houses the best of fresh produce and specialty items from some outstanding vendors. It’s open every Thursday from 7 am until 1 pm throughout the season and they even have fun activities for the kids, so there’s something for everyone in your family. This isn’t just the traditional fruit market (and the fruit is top quality). You’ll find crafters, artists, every type of food, and more all season long.
  • West End Arts Festival. The West End Arts Festival takes place in September and attracts artists from all over the country. It’s a wonderful chance for residents and art lovers to experience live music, gorgeous visual arts, culinary art by local chefs, and performances in a beautiful setting.

Looking for Restaurants in La Grange?

If you’re looking for a restaurant in La Grange to cap off a fun afternoon at one of the many events this summer, stop in and visit La Buona Vita. With a Northern Italian cuisine and a comfortable atmosphere, you’ll find the perfect place to relax and enjoy the summer with friends.

How To Host A Wedding Shower In La Grange, IL

Photo: Hosting a Wedding Shower and Catered EventIf you’re planning a wedding shower in the La Grange area, you’re probably wondering how to make the event truly memorable. Whether you’re concerned with catering, guest favors, or just the simple rules of etiquette, the only real goal is that your bride and groom have a shower they’ll love. Here we’ll break down some of the basics from etiquette to guest list to venue — a comprehensive checklist of tasks, but feel free to add your personality to it to make it fun and enjoyable for the guests. If they love music, include it. If they love games, absolutely plan some. And above all else, make sure the food and drinks are delicious and plentiful.

Wedding shower setup at La Buona Vita

Old or New: Proper Etiquette for Hosting a Bridal Shower

If you’ve never hosted a shower before, you might be worried that you’ll upset some of the more old-fashioned guests. After all, your grandmother’s social behavioral norms are probably far different from your own. Here’s a quick run down of the old and the new:

  • Who Can Host – Once upon a time, it was thought to be completely improper for the bride’s family to host. Traditionally, the duty falls to the Maid of Honor, but many wedding parties have multiple hosts. The bridal party may all go in as co-hosts to help with costs. The bride or groom’s family can also host the shower. The only real rule of etiquette now is that the bride can’t throw her own shower – and really, she shouldn’t have to.
  • Guest List – Traditionally, the guest list for bridal showers was once women only. The only man in attendance was the groom (and he usually didn’t want to be there). Today, many showers include both men and women. It can be as large or intimate as you’d like but everyone at the shower should also be invited to the wedding.
  • Invitations – Many people prefer paper invitations, but the choice is really up to the host. Guests should have ample time to reserve the date – at least 6 weeks to 2 months.

Checklist to Make Your Wedding Shower Memorable

Hosting a wedding shower for your best friend or loved one is a big responsibility. Here are some tips to make sure your day goes wonderfully.

Pick the Venue – You can host the occasion at a home with catering or choose a favorite restaurant/banquet hall for your event. Oftentimes, hosting at a restaurant such as La Buona Vita can be far more convenient.

Choose the Menu – The menu can be as casual or elegant as you desire. It’s always a nice touch to include something special for the bride, like a favorite dish or cocktail/drink.

overhead shot of delicious looking appetizers

What’s the Theme? – Showers are traditionally more casual than the wedding. You can choose a fun theme for the event if it’s something the bride and groom would like, you can even theme the gifts for couples who don’t need traditional home supplies.

Party Favors – Guests at a shower traditionally receive favors, or small gifts. This can be used as a table setting to organize seating or you can keep the party favors on a table for guests to take as they leave the event.

Delegate tasks – Showers can go fast and need some organization. Make sure you ask bridesmaids to help with tasks, such as creating the ribbon bouquet from the gift wrapping or writing down the bride’s gifts so she can more easily keep track of thank you notes.

Are You Hosting a Wedding Shower in La Grange?

If you’re hosting a wedding shower in the La Grange area, La Buona Vita Restaurant offers an exceptional private dining area and wonderful menu for the perfect occasion. If you prefer to host the event in your home, our catering service is available so that you can enjoy the same delicious meal in the setting of your choice. Contact us today to discuss your next event!

Guide to Italian Pasta

Homemade pasta might be the first thing you think of when someone mentions Italian cuisine. Though there is much more to the Italian menu, pasta is certainly a favorite. But pasta isn’t a one size fits all affair. There are many different shapes and types of pasta. The shape isn’t the only difference to the pasta, some work well to hold a hearty sauce and others are perfect in weight and taste for a light soup. Here we’ll cover some of the most popular types of pasta and what the best uses are for each.

Guide to Italian Pasta

  • Angel Hair. Angel Hair pasta is a very thin, long pasta. The real name is Capelli d’Angelo, and it’s a bit thinner than Capellini, much thinner than spaghetti, though the same shape and length. This type of light pasta can be used for a number of dishes, though it doesn’t work as well with heavy sauces. It’s often used with seafood or as a side dish.
  • Capellini. A bit less delicate than Angel Hair but not as thick as spaghetti, Capellini is also used for lighter dishes.
  • Farfalle. Often called “Bow Tie Pasta”, for its shape, Farfalle is made in small and larger size. This is a heartier pasta and can be used in thicker, cream sauces. This type of pasta is often used in soups as it holds its shape and texture well.
  • Fettuccine. Fettuccine is most often paired with Alfredo sauce (a thick, cream and cheese based Northern favorite). This pasta is long like Spaghetti but wide and flat. It’s a hearty, thicker type of pasta.
  • Gnocchi. Gnocchi can be classified as a pasta though it’s often made with potato. Gnocchi are small and very similar to dumplings. They offer a hearty and very filling dish and can be paired with many different types of sauces.
  • Lasagna. This noodle is made to make the favorite dish, Lasagna. The pasta is long, about three or four inches wide, and flat, often with ridges on the sides. The pasta is laid in layers over different types of filling to make a casserole – in the case of Lasagna the filling consists of ricotta and different cheeses, meat, and tomato sauce.
  • Linguine. Linguine is also a long type of pasta, similar to Spaghetti though thicker. This pasta is often used with seafood and oil based sauces rather than thicker cream sauces.
  • Mostaccioli. Mostaccioli is tube shaped and cut on an angle on each side. This hearty pasta works well with thick sauce and tomato sauces.
  • Penne. Penne is a smaller version of Mostaccioli. This also works well with thicker sauces and might be used in some heartier soups.
  • Ravioli. Ravioli is often square or round shaped and stuffed with meats or cheeses. It’s a heartier pasta and can be served with a variety of sauces.
  • Rotini. Rotini is spiral shaped, often called corkscrew pasta.
  • Spaghetti. Spaghetti and meatballs is the most commonly thought of dish for this type of pasta. Spaghetti is a thin, long pasta that can be prepared with many types of sauce but it does pair well with a traditional tomato sauce.
  • Tortellini. Tortellini are small, round-shaped pasta stuffed with cheese. They can be added to a cold salad or served warm with a sauce.

Looking for Italian Pasta in La Grange?

If you’re looking for a wonderful restaurant specializing in all of the old world charm of the Northern Regions of Italy, La Buona Vita in La Grange features a full array of homemade pasta and other regional favorites.

“All the pastas I tried were terrific.” – Phil Vettel

cheese ravioli covered in red sauce and parmesan cheese in a dish

When the chef bug bit Terry Rempert, he sold his 20-year-old printing business and, after earning a culinary degree, took over Marconi’s, a popular spot in downtown La Grange. Though he quickly renamed it La Buona Vita (the good life), other changes were more incremental, as much for the customers’ comfort level as his own. In mid-January, Rempert unveiled a redecorated dining room (new colors, new lighting and an eye-catching, circa-1850s map of Italy), a new cocktail program and new menu items.

The dining room is lovely (and usually packed). The menu remains a work in progress.

The menu arrives in a heavy, embossed-cover binder filled with plastic-sleeved pages. Fifteen pastas, nine red-meat entrees, seven chicken, eight seafood — not to mention a half-dozen daily specials on a separate sheet — make up a daunting assortment to contemplate, one that suggests the precise opposite of what a scratch kitchen (Rempert bought an imported extruder to make his own pastas) wants to convey. Cut the menu to a single page, train your waiters to inform guests that their old favorites are available on request, and LBV’s message will be far more clear.

Dining at LBV is a value proposition. There are rotating featured discounts each weekday. Entrees include soup or salad, and the salad is better than it has to be. Portions are substantial.

The grilled calamari gets dinner off to an eye-catching start. Calamari-steak slices, tossed with olive oil, garlic and some red-pepper flakes, are coddled in endive leaves, arrayed like petals around a center of mixed greens and chopped tomatoes. Stuffed banana peppers, an occasional special, aren’t nearly as camera-worthy, but the lively peppers, and the sausage-spinach-mozzarella-marinara filling, make for fun eating. Artichokes Francese (egg batter, lemon-butter sauce) are messy but tasty.

The chef’s heart is more in the pastas than the proteins. All the pastas I tried (I include the very good lobster risotto for efficiency’s sake) were terrific, among them an appropriately lusty linguini puttanesca and a buttery but gently briny linguini with clams. A simple penne dish with hearty sausage, rosemary and tomato-cream sauce was everything you’d want in such a dish, and short-rib ravioli in a murky porcini-mushroom sauce was the star of one of my visits.

By contrast, veal saltimbocca was solid but uninspiring, and a strip steak special one night, advertised as a sous-vide-and-sear preparation, had been overcooked to a grayish, flavorless lump. I might have griped that my strip steak was bone-in, but at least I had something to bring home to the pooch.

Rempert cleverly turns his profiteroles into dining-room advertisements by doubling up on the ice cream; when this towering plate is carried to a table, you can see other guests taking notice. It’s just vanilla gelato with chocolate, caramel or raspberry sauces, but the choux-pastry puffs are good, and to see one is to want one.

The beverage program includes a large number of affordable (less than $50) Italian wines and a reserve list for those in a mood to spend. A nice assortment of craft beers and a list of cocktails that includes Italian twists of classic drinks (Sicilian mule, anyone?) round out the options, which are even more appealing midweek ($6 cocktails Thursday, half-price on certain wine bottles Wednesday). 

By Phil Vettel
Chicago Tribune