Highly Recommended **** Over the years, I have dined in some of the Chicago area restaurants under the banner Mia Francesca. Most notable, the original (or as one might refer, the flagship) in the Wrigleyville area, and of course, the Taylor Street location. While it has been some years since, last week, while attending a Northbrook Chamber of Commerce “after hours”, I had the opportunity to visit the Northbrook location called Francesca’s North, and partake of some special items they served. This inspired me to make a return visit where we could partake of the extended menu. My grandson, Adam , will be celebrating his 12th birthday next week, but with the “super Bowl/Big Game” coming up, we moved our dinner celebration to tonight.
After being seated by our hostess, our server, Erich took the helm. He truly knows the standard menu as well as the specials of the night, so he was able to guide us through the selection of what I might call “tastes of Francesca” with great ease. Having three children with us could have made the evening a bit awkward, but with the exception of my grandson, Adam, the kids eat pretty much everything. Adam , being on his way to entering the world of “teens” is a pasta, hot dog, grilled cheese type of kid. The girls enjoy the finer things of life.
We began our dinner with the Insalata Caprese, the Risotto with lobster (juicy and tender as can be) and the Gamberi Alla Francesca, sautéed jumbo shrimp with wild mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, lemon, balsamico and basil. These three starters along with the warm, toasty bread (which we dipped into cheese and olive oil) started our dinner. For our entrée’s, Adam ordered the meatball and spaghetti (what else would one expect) and while he was not impressed with the meat balls, he loved the pasta (the girls tried it and we ordered another side of pasta for them to share as well). FYI- I tasted the meatball and found myself finishing the juicy, not spicy morsel.
As main courses for the rest of us, we ordered the Agnello Brasato con Patate (braised lamb shank with vegetables, tomatoes, demi-glaze, fresh herbs & roasted garlic mashed potatoes ( I was in heaven with this one), but Rebecca, my 6 year -old- grand-daughter ordered and ate most of the skirt steak ( a tender and very juicy cut of beef that even at medium was succulent), Pollo al Limone, a sautéed Chicken breast with a lemon wine sauce, capers and spinach- yummy! The roasted Grouper with Shitake and Cremini mushrooms, leeks, tomatoes, sage, garlic and white wine was a treat. I am not a mushroom person, and I found this to be truly a taste delight. The other dinner, which was the only one that we did not agree was a delight was the salmon, but fish can be off this time of year and they brought Sarah some pasta to make sure she was satisfied. She was!
Dining the way we do, and having lots of flavors to savor is fun, while at the same time, can play games with ones taste buds. Going from meat to fish to chicken can be confusing, which is why I try to cleanse my palate between tastes. For me it works, for others, not so much. On to “Dolci” also known as dessert- we went for the Torta Lava (flourless semi-sweet chocolate cake with a molton chocolate center served with Chocolate gelato and fresh mixed berries ( a big hit with the girls, especially Sarah). Adam, the purist that he is, orderd a chocolate sundae ( we ended up with two of these as my son-in-law and both girls are dessert freaks with very sweet teeth, although Rebecca was in the middle of losing one during our dinner). We also enjoyed a Crème Brulee with fresh berries as well as one of their special cookie skillets and the torta di noci- pecan pie served warm with vanilla gelato and crème anglaise.
On a busy Friday night, we found the service to be prompt and felt that we were never rushed. They entire staff was most attentive to our every needs- new plates, silverware, and removal of dishes no longer needed. Erich had several tables, some scattered into the other room, yet, always managed to cater to our needs or send one of the other staff members to fill our coffee cups, check our water and/or other needs. It was a pleasurable experience from the time we entered until we said our good-byes. There were a great number of dishes that I saw as we were leaving that I know I would like, so I will be back. The menu is large and filled with many Italian specialties and of course, a kids menu. This is a family restaurant in the suburbs, and yet, feels like one has traveled into the city, but with prices that are far more suburban. As I told the assistant General Manager, Nikola Paunovic (in my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice-) ” I will be back!”
Francesca’s North is located at 1145 Church Street in Northbrook (this is the Sunset Foods Shopping Center). Phone number- 847-559-0260
They have dining spots all over and I look forward to trying them all.