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Apr 8, 2008 01:43 PM

Best italian in evanston

I've heard evanston has a few very good italian restaurants.
Any suggestions for a weeknight?

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  1. Campangnola ( has survived the loss of Chef Altenberg nicely. Va Penseiro ( is also nice, but more upscale. Dave's ( has had fans for decades as an inexpensive weeknight Italian joint. Avoid Gio.

    3 Replies
    1. re: chicgail

      I second dave's italian kitchen as a fun low key italian place -

      1. re: chicgail

        I'm fond of Campagnola, too, altho it's one of the few Italian restaurants where I prefer the grilled items (meats/vegetables) to the pastas. Trattoria DOC is also very dependable if you're looking for a low-key place for lunch or dinner.

        1. re: jbw

          I have had very bad food at Trattoria DOC, combined with atrocious service. Not on my list to recommend.

      2. Va Pensiero is the very best by far. Just wonderful in every way. When the weather gets nice, you can dine al fresco on the patio. Campagnola is also generally good, but Va Pensiero is even better. Both of these places are mid-priced.

        Dave's Italian Kitchen is absolutely dreadful, my very worst meal of 2007. Granted, it's inexpensive so you don't expect food that's top quality, but it was worse than what you'd find in the freezer at the supermarket. And Gio (which is mid-priced) was almost as bad (and was my second worst meal of 2007). If you want cheap Italian food, Panino's ( ) is far better.

        2 Replies
        1. re: nsxtasy

          No question that Va Pensiero is the finest Italian in Evanston in terms of really great food, but the original question was for a weeknight dinner, which sounded to me like jman was looking for something less expensive and casual.

          I agree with you about Dave's, but over the years I would describe it -- for me -- as being nothing special and inconsistent, rather than dreadful. I hesitated to be that forthcoming, as I know so many people who love it and want to go there, which is why I worded my response the way I did.

          Gio has nothing to recommend it.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            >> Va Pensiero is the very best by far. Just wonderful in every way. When the weather gets nice, you can dine al fresco on the patio. Campagnola is also generally good, but Va Pensiero is even better. Both of these places are mid-priced.

            Several months after writing this post ten months ago, I ate at Campagnola and had an absolutely wonderful dinner, far better than my previous visits. It was sufficient for me to revise my statement above, and say that Va Pensiero and Campagnola are both excellent, each in its own way. The atmosphere is different - Va P is more of an elegant dining room, Campagnola a casual bistro with brick-lined walls - and so are the prices (entrees are around thirty at Va P, around twenty at Campagnola) - but you can get an excellent dinner and a nice dining experience at either place.

          2. I've had a couple of very good experiences at GIO on Chicago Ave. in Evanston... I know some people are not big fans but I really enjoyed the food and ambiance there. Not a big fan of Dave's. Just went to Campangola... love the ambiance, was slightly underwhelmed with the food... maybe I got the wrong thing? It was good but not amazing, as I was expecting.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gundy1814

              Here's what I experienced the last time I went to Gio for dinner. The mixed grill consisted of three items: a beef sirloin ordered medium and served rare; a veal scallopini that was overcooked; and a bland whitefish. All were overpowered because they were sitting in unidentifiable juice (au jus from the beef, perhaps). Just not very good. Someone else had one of their thin, crispy crust pizzas, which you might like if you like that style of pizza (I didn't and I don't). The desserts were actually pretty good, the high point of a not very good meal; they consisted of a very good white chocolate panna cotta, a very good flourless chocolate cake, a very good crostata which appeared as a pear crostata on the menu but was actually apple instead of pear; and overly tart chocolate-covered frozen grapes. The service was slow and indifferent. This was my worst meal of the year up to that point, later eclipsed for that "honor" by Dave's. :(

            2. my sister claims Daves Kitchen is to die for never been there myself - but they were just there for a party last week and said it was great

              2 Replies
              1. re: sand12

                25 years ago I would regularly crave Dave's baked spaghetti. Dave's is still the same as it was but my tastes in Italian dining have matured over the years. It's great for what it is - cheap Americanized Italian, but I haven't been back in quite some time.

                1. re: sand12

                  My expectations for Dave's are/were not all that high, due to the low price. However, I expected edible, but that would be a highly generous and undeserved characterization of the food the last time I ate there. We had two dishes. One was veal in lemon sauce, which consisted of a few slices of veal with no breading and no taste, served over rotini in a liquid that I can only guess was the water in which the pasta was boiled. The dish had absolutely no lemon taste whatsoever. The other was a special, grilled chicken and provolone ravioli, in which the ravioli (including filling) had absolutely no taste, and were submerged in a tomato sauce that might have come from a jar at the supermarket (and from the cheap brand, too). Also, from the Department of Ewwww, I'd also like to know what the green-colored liquid in the olive oil dispensers on the tables is, because it sure doesn't taste like olive oil (although the serving of undistinguished bread without butter would lead one to expect it to be real olive oil).

                  I don't eat at expensive restaurants every time I eat out, and I don't expect the same thing when I'm paying $10 or $14 for an entree as when I'm paying $20-30 or more. But I expect it to be better than, say, what I find in the frozen food department of my local supermarket. At Dave's, it wasn't; it was worse.

                  If you want inexpensive Italian food in Evanston, Panino's is far, far superior. Panino's consistently leaves me wondering how they can be so good at such a low price. Dave's leaves me wondering why I ever went there in the first place.