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Oak Park Eats

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I'm looking for some recommendations in Oak Park, preferably near Lake/Oak Park. We've tried Khyber Pass, Grape Leaves, and Gianotti's. We have no more than 1-hour for the dining experience.

Appreciate any rec's, please no chains.

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  1. You don't say whether you are looking for lunch or dinner. There are a number of passable - but not chow-worthy - places near Lake/OP Ave, many of which have been reviewed on this board, and some of which may be able to get you out in an hour.

    Of the three spots near that intersection that eke it into the chow-worthy category, I suggest you try Cucina Paradiso, on North Blvd (not North Ave), one block south of Lake and 1/2 block west of Oak Park Ave. The other two (Cafe Le Coq, Hemmingway's) won't turn you around quickly enough.

    Sadly, some of the best Oak Park Chow is in Forest Park.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Another Oak Parker

      We are looking for dinner fare. Perhaps we'll check out Cucina Paradiso next week.

      Thanks for the info.

      1. re: Basia

        I've been to about a dozen restaurants in Oak Park and Cucina Paradiso was by far the best - expecially when followed up by a visit to Oberweis around the corner.

        I've had better Italina, but its quite good. No dish sticks out in my mind, but the food and service always satisfy. I'd go back any day. I've probalby been there 3-4 times, the last being a year ago.

    2. I have enjoyed Hemmingway's and believe it or not, the Italian Pasta Shoppe has a restaurant behind the deli which was good, too!

      1. I would second the Pasta Shoppe.

        1. I've been living in Oak Park for the last 15 years and I've never heard of Gianotti's. Where is that?

          As far as good restaurants around Lake / Oak Park Avenue, there's a new Japanese place (just east of the Caribou Coffee on Lake St.) that I've heard is pretty good. Haven't tried it yet....

          4 Replies
          1. re: cipsi

            Sorry, I think it's actually called Gepetto's - it's on Oak Park, north of the tracks.

            Thanks for the Japanese rec.

            1. re: Basia

              Let me know how the Japanese place is. I'm curious....the only other Japanese place I know of is Fuji Grill. It's in a strip mall on Harlem, just north of Madison (Forest Park). I've eaten there a couple times. It's o.k., not great.

              Geppetto's (sp?) is really, really mediocre.

              1. re: cipsi

                The Japanese place is probably Sagano Sushi. It's pretty decent sushi for the area.

                Agreed that Geppetto's is just not good.

            2. re: cipsi

              There used to be a Gianotti's on Roosevelt Road. I think it was in Forest Park. It relocated to Oak Brook on 22nd St., and I hear it has relocated again.

            3. Ditto on Gepetto's being mediocre, at best. We've found that Cucina Paradiso has the best Italian in the area, although we've been told that La Bella Pasteria is quite good since it moved & reopened. Has anyone tried it?

              1. Haven't been to La Bella since it reopened. I used to like it. I think the people that own La Bella also own Trattoria Peppino, on North Avenue (Elmwood Park side of the street). I really like Trattoria Peppino. They have very good polenta.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cipsi

                  The artichoke pasta is delicious.

                2. You should try Sparacino Ristorante on North Avenue one block east of Harlem. It has received excellent reviews in the major and minor Chicago newspapers. The Chef-Owner, Mark Sparacino, also runs a terrific catering operation out of a sizable commercial kitchen. He does what I would call Contemporary Italian. You would be hard-pressed to find a red sauce here.

                  The dining room is small, intimate, and thoroughly comfortable with a big fireplace. It's especially nice to sit in front of the fire and watch the snow fall on North Avenue. There's also a very small, cozy bar and an excellent wine list.

                  Mark loves to bring out the plates himself and schmooze with customers. He's probably the wildest extrovert I have ever known.

                  When we go, we never use the menu- we just say "fix us what you think is good tonight, Mark..." and we're never disappointed. Mark's sister runs FOH.

                  DO NOT go expecting a one-hour dinner, however. This is an EXPERIENCE, not a drag race.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MikeLM

                    Thanks, Mike! I'll give it a try.

                    We go to the Onion Roll, (across the street from Sparacino's) nearly every weekend for brunch. They have the only good bagels in the western 'burbs. I've been looking at Sparacino's for years now and wondering about it. I'll definitely give it a try.

                  2. Get the snails app. You won't be disappointed. Or with anything else, in our experience.

                    We go way back with Mark; he and Mike Jr. were high school classmates, then Mark worked for Mike in an industrial valve business in Houston. I took a nightmare trip with the two of them around Lake Michigan maybe 12-14 years ago in a rattletrap flatbed truck with highly suspicious Missouri "Farm" license plates. I'm pretty sure they didn't have registration papers. We were visiting power and chemical plants and junkyards seeking cheap, used industrial valves to take back to Houston and rebuild. (Great background experience for a chef, no?)

                    We took turns driving, and Mark would never slow down when he barreled through the little Michigan and Wisconsin towns. I was sure we would get stopped and the truck would be confiscated, and we woould be turned loose to walk back to Chicago. Mark's reaction was always "don't worry about it, I can talk my way out of anything." We never had to put that to the test, Thank God.

                    Actually, Mark had worked quite a lot as a waiter, then into the kitchen and up the line, before doing valves. After two or three years, he quit the valves and went back to the kitchen, with excellent results.

                    You will enjoy.


                    1. Have you tried New Pot? Service is speedy and food is freshly prepared. Chicken Basil, Tom Yum, New Pot Rolls and Lumpia Rolls are our favorites. Reasonably priced. I hope you enjoy it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: msu73

                        Yes, I like New Pot a lot. Haven't been in awhile...now I'm getting hungry!!

                      2. I agree.

                        We used to like Vivaldi, too. They went out of business a couple years ago. I thought they were very good and they had a really nice outdoor patio (nice to dream about when it's 19 degree outside and icy!)