The first thing you notice is the sign: tall and flashy, its wildly out of scale with the surrounding block, save the equally gaudy lights of the Five Star Bar down the street. Inside, this old-school Italian-American joint on the booming Chicago Avenue nightlife strip, the disconnect continues. The dark, spacious bar and dining room--all man-friendly leather and taupe--seem to have beamed down directly from some well-appointed suburb. But despite the swanky stock decor, the food is a cut above the norm. An appetizer of thinly sliced eggplant wrapped around fluffy ricotta and topped with provolone was surprisingly light and fresh; my plate of "Chicken Joey" was equally satisfying: three tender, lemon-drenched cuts of grilled chicken breast over a garlicky tangle of rapini, white beans, and coarsely chopped tomatoes. The vast selection of pastas includes a toothsome bowl of eight-finger cavatelli in vodka cream sauce and "Rigatoni Johnny," baked with ricotta, spinach, and pine nuts. A linguine special with shrimp and scallops wasnt exactly what the server described (whered that asparagus come from?) but was fresh and well seasoned nonetheless. On the down side, the "Martini Salad" suffered from underripe mangos and a bland mayo dressing, and the most interesting bottle on the wine list was out of stock. Though I live in the neighborhood, Im probably never going to be a regular--but the next time my parents come to visit, you may find us in a comfy corner booth.
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