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Looking for a specific Italian restaurant in Chicago

Seven years ago, my husband and I got a recommendation for an Italian restaurant from a concierge at the Hotel Allegro. We requested the most authentic place possible, one that was established vs. new and trendy with a genuine local following--and we really lucked out with the BEST Italian meal ever. But, we have since lost the name of the restaurant. We're coming back this weekend and would love to find it. Here's what we remember:

Reasonable cab ride from Hotel Allegro. Even with traffic, we were in the cab only 15-20 minutes tops. But a bit off the beaten path. We had to wait for a cab when we left, so not on the busiest street.

It had photos of famous diners on the walls, but in spite of that, it struck us both as more of a neighborhood favorite more than a tourist haunt. The servers seemed on a first-name basis with many of the other diners. We felt like we'd stumbled into a very friendly private club.

On the small side (maybe 15-20 tables or so) with real linens, romantic light levels and a noise level that was pleasantly bustling to ensure privacy but not so loud that you had to shout to hear each other. No kitschy Italian decor but not pretentiously staged and overworked, either. They served their red wine in stemless glasses and the atmosphere was pretty and pleasant, not the star of the show.

We kicked off the evening with the most amazing grilled calamari and things just got better from there. The food was definitely chef-driven and it seemed like it might have been chef-owned. I seem to remember at least part of the menu being seasonal; our server was excellent and offered good insights on the best offerings.

If anyone can help us find our little spot of Italian heaven (or even direct us to a place that can nearly replicate the original experience) we'd be very appreciative and would happily offer advice if you're ever eating in the Twin Cities. Thanks!

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  1. We had a nice meal at Merlo on Maple. One of the better dining experiences we've had in Chicago.

    http://www.merlochicago.com/pages/loc...

    Hope this helps,
    dan

    1. There are so many Italian restaurants off the beaten track -- Try Rose Angelis on Wrightwood perhaps?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Didee

        It could also be one of the places west on Grand Ave. So many good ones there that fit Janet's description.

      2. I am not sure which place you went to. Would you know the name of the place if I said it? Was it called "Rosebud?" What you're describing sounds like it could be the one on Taylor Street. This is one of the best Italian places in Chicago. Even some of the Mafia guys like to eat there. Check out their website and see if it looks familiar to you.

        http://www.rosebudrestaurants.com/res...

        1. La Scarola?

          http://www.lascarola.com/

          By the way, a little more upscale, but here's another small chef-driven Italian restaurant that defionitely won'e disappoint:

          http://terragustocafe.com/indexie.html

          1. I am 99% sure you are talking about La Scarola on Grand and Halsted. I come from a very Italian family and it became my favorite restaurant in Chicago within 15 minutes of my first visit. The grilled calamarie is a must!!
            Enjoy!