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Finestra di Calo thoughts??

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My parents and brother are coming to town this weekend to see a play I'm acting in. We were thinking about going to Finestra di Calo afterwards since it's right around the corner from the NeoFuturarium. Any thoughts?

It's been pretty positively reviewed in the print media, and is allegedly a specialist in Panna Cotta which excites my father a fair amount...Is its good reputation deserved? Thanks in advance everybody.

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  1. Go! It's not the best Italian I've ever had, but it's pretty dang good. It's become a neighborhood, and a personal, favorite (the fact that it's a 5-minute walk from where I live helps). We eat there at least once a month, usually more.

    The panna cotta? Out of this world. By all means, get it. I've never had better. The tiramisu? Go across the street to Tomboy--it's better there. They have some other really good desserts too.

    Some of my personal favorites are the Bucatini all' Amatriciana and the Gnocchetti dello Chef (this is what they eat in heaven-a soft gnocchi with gorgonzola and mascarpone--rich but not as rich as it sounds). I didn't care for the seafood risotto, but otherwise I've found their pasta to be great (I've tried just about every one on the menu). Their other dishes (fish, chicken, meat) alas, I've found to be hit or miss. The Saltimbocca isn't bad if you eat Veal. I usually don't, but I made an exception once and I was pleased. Friends tell me they always get the filet. I never have.

    The specials usually don't thrill me, although I had a brilliant Lobster ravioli once, yet it didn't thrill me at all when I had it a second time. The Eggplant appetizer (rolled with cheese) is pretty good, the salads are good, and the wine list is ok.

    Hint: chat it up with the hostess, she's a HOOT! The first time we dined there, she sat us at our table, looked at me and said, "Is it warm in here, or am I having a hot flash?" It's been love ever since.

    Make a reservation too, it gets quite crowded.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Michael

      Thanks for the recommendation, Michael. Sounds good.

      The only issue now is that we may not make it in time to get food from the kitchen, which apparently closes at 9:15 sharp.

      What are some good backup ideas within walking distance of the neo-futurarium for dinner with the fam? Is Calo (not finestra) any good? I know that Pasteur has gotten some nice reviews on this board, but I'm not convinced that it's up our alley (my dad is not crazy about non-pho vietnamese). How about Atlantique -- the reader seems to like it, but I've heard nothing about it here. Or Kan Zaman -- another reader rater fave, but i'm disinclined to go on a reader rec alone. Or La Donna? or Tomboy for things other than tiramisu?

      Thanks for the help, Andersonville experts: I'll eagerly await your responses.

      1. re: Seth

        Calo's is ok. Standard fare. But you want to avoid the weekends when "The Below Average White Band" plays and plays and plays. And the folks dance. It can be a hoot but it's the sort of thing you really have to enjoy making fun of and getting into not to be annoyed.
        Kan Zaman has an interesting menu but nothing really pushes the envelope - although the little tables that you have to pre-reserve are pretty neat. And if you're with a vegetarian, you've got it made.
        I've heard great things about Atlantique, but sadly haven't been yet.
        Have been to Tomboy only twice but both times it was wonderful, if crowded. You're sitting on top of each other here and if you don't mind yelling across the table to make yourself heard - well, your golden.
        I'll think about some other places around there and get back to ya.

        1. re: bryan

          Re: noise at Tomboy.

          There are, unfortunately, a growing number of restaurant with wonderful food but a noise level that is just unbearable....

          Our very favorite pizza place in DC--Pizzeria Paradiso--is so noisy that we can only go at very off-hours or have to order takeout.

          A real shame.

          Jim Zurer
          Washington DC

          1. re: Jim Zurer

            cafe 28 (on irving pk road near the ravenswood train tracks) was unbearably loud. our server was constantly repeating herself and conversation was basically shouting at each other the whole time...the food was good, especially the steak special and the ropa vieja, but the noise deters me to go back.

            1. re: rhiannon

              It is very noisy inside, and the food is pretty good. One workaround that was successful for us was to sit at one of the few outside tables along the side of the restaurant (weather cooperating of course)

        2. re: Seth

          Let's see:

          La Donna is darn good too, and just around the corner from the theater. They also have very good desserts.
          I've been to Atlantique once, and it was very good, although the service was slow and somewhat belabored (we found it amusing, but that's because we had nowhere else to go). Tomboy is excellent, but it is crowded and loud. My parents loved it, though. And it's less pretentious than Atlantique.

          Calo's? Skip it. It's best for a pizza delivery.

          Of all the Middle Eastern places up there, Andies is quite, quite good. It's next to Reza's (which is unavoidable, but in my mind can be skipped without any regret). There's also Cousin's, which I haven't been too in a long time, and I have no complaints about Kan Zaman either.

          There's also a really great small mom-n-pop Japanese place on Clark and Catalpa called the Sunshine Cafe, which really serves it up good. No sushi, but authentic, Japanese home-style cooking. For Sushi, you've got the Tokyo Marina (just ok) and farther north along Clark (at Bryn Mawr) you have Kotobuki, which is really quite excellent.

          Pasteur might be a bit of a hike, but if you're up there, why not check out Mei Shung, which has (in my very humble opinion) the best Chinese Food on the north side.

          You're not far from any of the Argyle Street restaurants either.

          I think that might do it. Let us know what you find.

          1. re: Michael

            I thought of sunshine as well, which IS great, but it closes early.

            you mentioned your dad doesn't like "non-pho vietnamese" does that mean he doesn't care for upscale vietnamese a la Pasteur or just doesn't like any other dish besides Pho? If he does like downscale, there are a number of places on argyle that might fit the bill, as well sun-wah bbq. Also Mei shung on broadway just douth of Bryn Mawr isn't bad (order from taiwanese menu - clams with basil, salt and pepper prawns, mei shung tofu are some that i like)

            1. re: zim

              Yeah -- I thought of those (argyle, sun wah, etc) too. I'll suggest it to my father. I think he's not crazy about Vietnamese food in general -- he can probably explain his tastes better than I can. Mr Zurer? Is there a Jim Zurer in the building? Mei Shung might be a good option, if we don't make Finestra. Thanks to everyone for the feedback.

              1. re: Seth

                I've also heard pretty good things about:

                Shan's Grocery & Restaurant
                5060 N Sheridan Rd
                (773) 769-4961

                Indian/pakistani grocery store with counter food. Haven't been though - Don't know the hours.

                name question - I've noticed posts from "seth", "seth zurer" and "seth7". Are you all of the above or just two of them?

                1. re: zim

                  Seth, Seth Zurer and Seth7(typo) are all the same person. I don't think there's another seth that posts on this board. Sorry for the confusion.

              2. re: zim

                My feeling about Vietnamese food is that it is a little too delicate with a tendency towards sweetness...just personal taste. I do love a good bowl of pho however.

                The panna cotta is what attracted to me to Finestra di Calo...but it is good to have backups and alternatives.

                Thanks for all the suggestions.

                Jim Zurer
                Washington DC

              3. re: Michael

                I'll put my vote in for La Donna. My favorite dish there is the pumpkin ravioli with balsamic cream sauce. mmmmm. if you go, the hand-made pasta specials are always good.

              4. re: Seth

                Just wanted to mention that Tomboy is BYOB. There's a good little wine place on Foster/Clark, with decent selection and good variety, but they're not cheap.

                Didn't want you to be caught unaware.

            2. c
              Cliff Abrams

              Thanks to all for good food info in Andersonville (where i used to work). Couple questions/comments. Is the Mexican place at the corner of Clark (where it ends and turns into Ashland) any good? Has Delwood Pickle closed and reopened in a new incarnation? I was disappointingly underwhelmed by the cooking at Atlantique. And quite expensive, too. For the same bux, i'd rather eat at the similarly-named Oceanique up the road in Evanston.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Cliff Abrams

                Unfortuantely, the Dellwood Pickle is closed down, and has not opened up anywhere else. I hadn't been there ever since they got a liquor license, but apparently the landlord just didn't renew their lease. I have no idea what's going in there.

                The owners also own Cafe Boost on the corner of Clark and Balmoral, which has ok coffee but pretty good sandwiches and ice cream.

                Haven't been to that Mexican place, and don't know too many others in the area that are good. I usually hit El Ranchito on Lawrence and Damen when I'm in the mood for a taqueria.

                1. re: Michael

                  Thanks for the info.

                  1. re: Michael

                    Seeing as your an intrepid chowhound, I would like to know what you get here. I always get spooked by it's appearance, cliental and the really scary 7AM bar on the corner. This is the little taqueria on the north side of Lawrence or kitty-corner to the bar I've named the Swollen Liver (The Ritz - believe it or not.)?

                    1. re: bryan

                      El Ranchito is at 4806 N. Damen Ave. Its just a few doors up from that very scary looking "La Cave" Cafe. I've never been to the place on the corner, that looks really scary.

                      I usually get a burrito or a few tacos at El Ranchito. I got hooked on their veggie burritos back a few years ago when I was still a vegetarian. I'm now a recovering vegetarian, but I still always get the veggie burrito. I was also just recently graduated from school and a 24-hour place was important to me then (it comes in handy occasionally these days too). Their quesadillas seemed really greasy to me, but other stuff has been decent.

                      The chips and salsa are ok if you eat in, but be wary of going to the bathroom. You walk by a grill with a pile of meat on it that almost made me swear to forgo animal product once again. Thankfully, it didn't last long. I usually get takeout, however.

                      The best Mexican? Nah. But it's not bad when I'm driving home from somewhere really late at night and I haven't had dinner. Or when I'm really craving a burrito.

                2. Our meal at Finestra was a bit of a mixed bag. The panna cotta, as promised, was very very good: not too firm or gelatinous, not too sweet, velvety and drizzled with a light caramel sauce (i think). Overall we were less successful with our main courses. The were all out of the gnochetti by the time we arrived. So that's too bad. The bucatini all'amatriciana was nice, and the octopus was pretty good.

                  Unfortunately the sage/prosciutto ravioli i ordered showed up fully plated and sauced, but unboiled. They were cooler than room temperature: there must have been a breakdown in the pasta assembly line. When I sent it back, ("Excuse me, but is this dish intended to be hot or cold?"), it looked like they reheated the plate instead of reassembling the dish, despite the fact that I told them it seemed like the pasta had escaped being cooked at all. So that was too bad, but I did enjoy the carpaccio.

                  My parents and brother can weigh in with more details. I think the verdict was that the location was right, but we wouldn't necessarily make a return visit: between the noise and the peculiar service problems, we left with a less than stellar impression. I am still curious to try the gnochetti: if I find myself up there again, i would try it out.

                  Thanks again to everyone for the recommendations (michael's ordering guidance was dead-on), and I look forward to trying the other Andersonville picks on this thread.