Balena | Lincoln Park | Italian, Pizza, Craft Cocktails, Wine Bar | Restaurant
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Italian-inspired charcuterie, pizza, pasta, and entrees from Chris Pandel and the Boka group. Closed temporarily due to a fire.

Our Review

The Italian alliance between Chris Pandel (the Bristol) and the Boka Group (Boka, Perennial Virant, GT Fish & Oyster, Girl & the Goat) takes the something-for-everyone approach to Italian food—pizzas, handmade pastas, shareable plates, in-house breads—and raises the bar with resolutely rustic, unfussy preparations. Mounded on a pool of uni compound butter, interspersed with shreds of crustacean, and topped with a briny, foamy lobe of sea urchin gonad, the tagliolini nero is the most delicious, spicy tangle of fish netting to wash up on the beach yet this year. Chewy tripe in a thick, lemony sauce of marrow, pancetta, and pureed chickpeas is neither too funky nor too antiseptic; olive oil-poached tuna, piled high with cannellini beans on bruschetta, is the ideal the ancients were striving for when they first canned the fish. Nearly everything on this menu is something you want to tear apart with your teeth like a rabid animal. Pizzas are good too, every bit up to the high standards we expect in this Neapolitan age. Balena's where the house servants cut loose with the serfs, one big easygoing feast. Read the full review >>

Mike Sula

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Price: $$$
Payment Type: MasterCard, Visa, AmEx, Discover

Bar Details

Balena's cocktail program, based on the bitter herbal Italian liqueurs known as amari, assigns placement on scale of bitterness from one to ten. The resulting drinks are across-the-board approachable yet still manage to be interesting, from the sweet, citrus-kissed chartreuse-and-gin Elixir to the Fib, which tops the list at ten with a bracing mix of barley-based gin, grapefruit, and basil. —Mike Sula

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