Tuesday October 17th 2017

La Scarola- “real” Italian dining

For year, I have driven down Grand Avenue, near Milwaukee Avenue/Halsted and never noticed that there was a restaurant near the corner of Grand and the other streets- 721 to be exact. The restaurant is named La Scarola and has been there for over 20 years. Amazing! How could someone like me, a true Chicagoan, born and raised here, not be aware of the existence of this spot? Well, earlier this year an old client of mine, Bill Conforti, (formerly Siding1-Windows1, now Cobblestone Development) sent me a gift card to this restaurant. Jane and I were in the city one night, reviewing a play, and stopped by to use the card. What an amazing little space this is! From the outside, one can hardly tell that this might be a “jumpin place to be”, but is was (and is!). Our eyes were opened to a new experience in a city that I have lived in all my life! When you see the entry, you might think, “Do I really want to dine here?”. The answer is yes! The walls are filled with pictures of the many celebs who dine here- actors, politicians, sports figures- they all do! In fact, the Mayor is a frequent diner here at La Scarola. I cannot fault him for that.

Tonight, we went back, bringing the Gores, Rich and Denise, so we could test , and taste, the menu to its fullest. This was a Thursday night, and I would venture to say, had we not had a reservation, the wait could have been 15-20 minutes. We did, and we were seated in the main dining room, with walls filled with pictures of the many celebs who have dined here for over 20 years. Our server, Eloy, is a very knowledgable person and helped us with our selections. We always try to mix the menu so that we can tell you about the main items (almost every restaurant has daily specials, but we find it better to try the items that are ALWAYS available.

For our appetizers, we selected Brushetta ( tomatoes, garlic, Romano cheese, basil and extra virgin olive oil over toasted Italian bread and Sausage & peppers ( grilled Italian sausage that was to “die for”) and as  for the Calamari, there was a grilled calamari on the specials, which we selected over the fried. It was juicy and savory. The bread basket was filled with great fresh bread which of course we finished as if we had never eaten before. Why is it that bread in a basket is better than any we have in the house? Maybe it is the olive oil and cheese that we dip the bread in. Or, perhaps it is the fact, we are out for the evening.

Our entrée’s were: Vitello di Franco- breaded veal, fried in olive oil, finished in the oven with asparagus, garlic, tomatoes, arugula and roasted imported provolone served with a side of risotto and the Pesce Lemon, a very moist and juicy Lake Superior White fish, baked with potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini in a lemon butter sauce (if my mother could have served fish this way, I would have been a true fish eater). For a meat dish, we selected the Bistecca alla Zorich, a 10 oz Filet, pan seared with just the right amount of herbs and garlic, set over a bed of sliced potatoes, with garlic shallots and arugula topped with sautéed mushrooms (note: for the most part I am not a mushroom eater, but I went back for seconds on these!) and to make the meal complete, the pasta we selected was the Cheese Raviolis alla Forno (baked with fresh tomatoes, spinach and cheese). We passed on any of the many chicken dishes, figuring, there is a great reason to return.

By the way, I forgot to mention, we also partook of the Asparagus Salad and the  The Antipasto Salad along with our drinks. The bartender truly knows how to give a drinker their money’s worth. No skimping!

Despite being full, with plenty of left-overs for the week-end (the portions are plentiful), we opted to have a few of the dessert dishes to top off a perfect evening. Some different ice cream treats and of course Tarami Su along with my fresh and very tasty coffee.

From the time we arrived and handed over our car to the valet (only $8.00), entered the La Scarola” restaurant are were seated, time stood still. The other guests in the restaurant were as friendly as one could ask for. A young lady was celebrating her birthday at the table next to ours, we joined in for the “Happy Birthday” song and when they left, they shook our hands and said thanks, In fact, this is probably the friendliest group of diners I have ever enjoyed dinner with. I mentioned my good friend Bill to our waiter and he showed me that our table was under the “honorary” street sign,” Bill Conforti Way”, and then guess what?, showed me that Bill was there  (in the other room) having dinner. He came by our table to meet Jane ,Rich and Denise. What a fabulous experience for us all. Thanks to our host Armando Vasquez for making it such a special evening, and of course Eloy (ask for him-he is a gem). AS Arnold Schwarzenegger might say, “I’ll Be Back!.

La Scarola Restaurant is located at 721 West Grand Avenue in Chicago (at Milwaukee and Halsted). call 312-243-1740 and online  www.lascarola.com

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