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May 12, 2008 11:08 AM

Italian restaurant in Evanston

Can anyone recommend a good Italian restaurant in Evanston? My price range is in the mid-$20's range for a main course. If you know of a place or can recommend a past discussion topic, please let me know! Thanks.

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  1. Va Pensiero might fit the bill -

    Va Pensiero
    1566 Oak Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201

    1. Va Pensiero is an excellent option. So is Campagnola. Avoid Gia.

      1. I think Va Pensiero is the very best Italian restaurant in Evanston. The food is great, the service is excellent, and it's a very nice place to spend time, whether you're in the main dining room, or outside eating al fresco on the patio (weather permitting).

        Campagnola is also quite good, although I think Va Pensiero is even better. Campagnola is also less expensive, with most entrees around $20, vs $30 or so at Va P.

        I agree that Gio is to be avoided at all costs. Just dreadful.

        I have not yet been to Trattoria DOC.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nsxtasy

          > Campagnola is also quite good, although I think Va Pensiero is even better.

          Well, there's nothing like a return visit to change an opinion! We went to Campagnola tonight, and it was absolutely wonderful. This was far better than the last time we ate there (a while ago), although even then it was good, and this was as good as the last dinner we had at Va Pensiero (late last summer). You can get a great meal at either of these two fine restaurants, and Evanston is lucky to have both of them.

          We started by splitting the "Mussels saffron & fennel broth, shaved garlic, Pernod". WOW! These were perhaps the best mussels I've ever had, absolutely fresh and flavorful, and the broth was... WOW! Delicious. Oh, and the portion size was quite ample for two to share ($9).

          We had two mains. One was a daily special of pan seared halibut with roasted tomato, fingerling potatos, and asparagus, and a black olive tapanade ($24). Very nicely prepared, with a thin crispiness on the outside and moist flesh inside. The other was "Roast Duck mashed new potato and plum mostardo". It was a half duck, which was very good and to which the preparation really added a nice zing, not just the bed of potato (very good) but especially the plum mostardo. This was a subtlely sweet plum sauce with mustard seeds, which also covered the duck, and there were quartered skinned spiced plums alongside the duck, all of which was mmmm good ($22). We also had a side order of Dekalb County creamy polenta ($4) which was a great choice, mild and creamy as a nice counterpoint to the two strong main dishes.

          We had two desserts, vanilla panna cotta with plum compote ($7), and polenta pound cake with peach marmalade, served warm and topped with a dab of whipped cream ($7). Both were simply superb.

          As you can see, this was a wonderful dinner, in which every dish was excellent and there wasn't a single clunker in the group.

          The only thing I would also mention is that the menu at Campagnola is not exactly strictly Italian. There was a selection of five pastas, and a few things like prosciutto and carpaccio, but many of the other dishes seem to be as much French or contemporary American in nature. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, as long as it's what you're expecting. And it's not all that surprising, nowadays with so many restaurants serving menus with influences of many different cuisines rather than a single, strictly traditional menu. What results, in the case of Campagnola, is great food, whatever you want to call it.

        2. One of the best Italian restaurants in Chicago is in Evanston, called Trattoria Doc, on Main Street, just a block west of Chicago Ave. The daily specials are always fabulous--these days they are featuring grilled artichokes. The service is great, the wine list more than decent.

          2 Replies
          1. re: SiMangiaBene

            I have to disagree about Trattoria DOC on all counts. Having been there twice, I have found the food to be mediocre and the service almost non-existent. Not going back for the third strike.

            1. re: SiMangiaBene

              I also disagree with Trattoria DOC, their location in Chicago called Pizza DOC which I believe is on Lawrence is great, but I've been to Trattoria twice and both times have had terrible food. Seafood was especially bad. Campagnola is great, the owners also just opened up another restaurant on Chicago called Union, which I've herd good reviews about. But my favorite is La Cucina Di Donatellaā€ˇ 2221 W Howard St.

            2. We love Dave's Italian Kitchen on Chicago Avenue - cheaper than your price range, not especially classy, but the food is good and it's a fun atmosphere.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tktchr

                I ate at Dave's recently and it was dreadful - the worst meal I've had in a long time (a distinction challenged only by the previously-mentioned Gio). Granted, it's inexpensive, but the food was far worse than you'd find in the freezer at the supermarket.

                If you're looking for Italian food in Evanston that's inexpensive, Panino's is a much better choice.