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GOOD Restaurant in Naperville & beyond

My wife and I moved here some 6 months ago and we actually were pretty happy having this choice of restaurants in Naperville. After trying most of them we found that none of them seemed to have an educated cook who is willing to just cook good non-fancy normal food. I could imagine e.g. Spagetti with a light fresh Pesto (and no, we do not need an overload of meat or seafood in there) or some nice steak with fresh potatoes or so (and again, no heavy sauce or double-baked potato). Most of the menus are somewhat identical with either the same pseudo-fancy 'ethnic' food or basic cheap american chain stuff. Besides, the food tastes the same everywhere because everything is overloaded with spices or sauces and its tough to taste the actual fresh ingredient, if at all... None of the food seems to be made from scratch or on the premises. Moreover, the restaurants seem to offer the identical menu and the low-level service by some college kids. The only variation between the restaurants seems to be the chosen 'theme' (which obviously is not related to the owners background but the choice of a marketing guy). And, is there any restaurant out there with a natural person owning the place and being responsible for it? We found Hugo's or Francesca's somehow good, but its not our ideal location to go out weekly... At most of the other restaurants - due to the heavy overload of ingeredients, cream, etc. - we were not able to identify one of the actual content.
The ideal restaurant does not need to have upscale setup, just the food should be freshly prepared by an ambitioned - best case - educated cook and seasoned to taste with fresh and light ingredients. So, if you have any recommendation which comes close to the opposite of my - potentially somewhat drastical negative depiction - please help finding a nice charming owner-run restaurant in the vicinity of Naperville or around where we finally can again have our weekly dine out.... :-) Thanks!

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  1. Not owner-run but worth your trying: Allgauer's Grill in the Lisle Hilton. I am especially fond of their duck breast (served rare) but order it with basmati rice or lightly dressed pasta (they used to serve it with angel hair pasta, then changed to coconut rice, but that deadens the duck, so just request a different accompaniment). All their fish dishes are interesting and well-prepared. Dinner is also served with your choice of soou or salad (salad is nicely composed and worth trying). Nice restaurant atmosphere with linen tablecloths, good service. they also offer a Frinday night seafood buffet and a Sunday buffet brunch, but both are in the $35 range. dinner entrees are in the $23-29 range

    1 Reply
    1. re: CJT

      Thanks, I'll put it on my list!

    2. What are the places that offend you so we can direct you elsewhere? I can't think of a place where "none of the food seems to be made from scratch" or offers "low level service by some college kids".

      2 Replies
      1. re: LikestoEatout

        I guess we have tried out most of the high-end and low-end chain eateries in dowtown naperville. That's why we are now looking for some owner-run restaurant to see whether this makes a change....

        1. re: pinko34

          We haven't lived in Naperville for 3 years, but our daughter is still there, so we get back now and then. Liking spicey foods, we did have favorites in Naperville (but a few of those have declined in quality, specifically, India Garden and Thai Lotus). Tony and Luigi's used to have a few items which might fit what you're looking for. They did have a great angel hair pasta with fresh basil and chopped tomatoes. I always asked for grilled chicken to accompany it. Some of their fish dishes were very good. If they prepare the dishes with too much garlic for you, I'm sure you could ask for less. I never had anything there that wasn't absolutely fresh. There used to be a few little bistro type places in Wheaton and Winfield (can't remember their names) that were a bit spotty when we tried them, but they always had some simpler options on the menu. I had also heard of a few new places in downtown Aurora, but haven't had a chance to investigate further. I'd try also looking at City Guide and browse the food sections of the local papers online. That's where we found some of our favorites when we first moved into the area. After moving here to the Pittsburgh area, I've taken to printing out portions of local restaurant reviews for those that look like a fit for us. I also print out a map of the location, slap it in a 3 ring binder and keep it in the car. Then when we're out and in an unfamiliar section of the region, or if we're trying to decide on a new place to try, we pull out the book and flip through it - eliminates trying to rely on our memory, or going online last minute and trying to find "that place" we thought we'd like to try.

      2. Meson Sabika is a wonderful Spanish restaurant in Naperville. The atmosphere is wonderful since it is located in an old house and has different dining rooms and the food is delicious!

        http://www.mesonsabika.com/mesonsabika/

        They have tapas, soups, salads, and paellas.

        2 Replies
        1. re: etoiles

          Thought of 2 others you might try:
          1. Raffi's in the Fifth Avenue Station bills itself as serving "Mediterranean" cuisine but that's conjures up something a bit different than you might expect. But their entrees are very good and we especially like the roasted black cod and the trout plates.
          2. Macarena Tapas on SE corner of Rte 59 and Aurora Ave. (next to "For Eyes" store). Good selection of Spanish tapas and sangrias. Definitely owner-run.

          1. re: etoiles

            I always wanted to try Meson Sabika. My ex husband had his wedding reception there 3 years ago and it just doesn't make me want to go there. lol! They are since divorced...... Maybe I will try Macarena Tapas

          2. I have the perfect place for you. I'm hesitant to tell you about it though, cause that means I may have to wait for a table. It's called Pasta Amore 2112 Winding River RD Naperville. It's at the corner of 87th St & Rt 59. Strange location behind the Walgreens, but I find alot of great finds in strip malls like this. It is absolutely wonderful. Fresh made pasta that is amazing! The filet medallions are superb and the pasta and chicken dishes are fabulous as well. Simple good food. The owner is there, comes to the tables, the bus boy even played with my kids. The one waitress I usually get is great. (Can't for the life of me remember her name though) If you have room after your meal you MUST order the chocolate cannolli. It's amazing. Please go there tonight and let me know If you don't agree it's the best.

            1 Reply
            1. re: nevalee

              Capri, on Ogden, is another great italian restaurant in a strip mall. Their son owns Pasta Amore.

            2. Clara's Pasta. It's located in a strip mall on rt. 53 just north of Hobson. We just had dinner there today for father's day. Enjoyed the family style menu. It was excellent!

              Clara’s Pasta
              6740 S. Route 53
              Woodridge, IL

              630.968.8899

              http://www.claraspasta.com/