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The Feast: Italian Comfort Food

Got a craving for a certain kind of food? Naperville Patch continues its new series on where to feed your need around town.

Few other types of cuisine beat Italian in the comfort-food category.

Who can resist supple, perfectly cooked pastas dressed with savory or spicy sauces and accented with delectable tastes from the likes of pancetta and parmesan?

Whether for lunch or dinner, or occasions casual or elegant, Italian food is both hearty and heartwarming.

A Naperville staple for several years now, La Sorella’s exterior, which features a beautiful picture window, makes it seem like it should be nestled on a side street in New York’s Little Italy. White tablecloths on the main floor hint at a finer dining experience than that of a casual eatery. The upstairs dining area—with a full service bar—has a pleasant ambiance with vaulted ceilings and windows that give a glimpse of a bustling downtown scene. Best of all, the cuisine does not disappoint. With a menu that focuses on northern Italian cuisine, the ingredients are fresh and the flavors hearty. Although specials change daily, appetizers like the Calamari Fritti and the simple asparagus, blue cheese and tomato salad,are a great way to start a meal. A variety of pizzas, pasta dishes and meat and fish dishes grace the menu each afternoon and evening.

This well-known Italian destination has relocated and reinvented itself in Naperville. Following a fire at its previous location on Chicago Avenue, this establishment moved across Washington Street and recently reopened. Offering a more casual twist on Italian food, Rosebud highlights its wood fired pizzas and a variety of fresh salads, like the traditional Caesar with anchovies and parmesan, in addition to sumptuous entrees like lasagna, ravioli, veal and more. Upon entering the front door, diners will notice an open and brighter atmosphere, which is a stark contrast to the restaurant’s previously dark and twisty former space. This new venue seems to lend itself to a more family friendly atmosphere with the ability to more easily host larger parties of hungry guests.

No stranger to most diners, Maggiano’s provides a “sure thing” when it comes to Italian dining. A family-friendly dining room with wallet-friendly prices and a wide variety of dishes for both lunch and dinner make it a clear favorite. Although the chopped salad is fantastic, it’s easily outranked by the restaurant’s namesake salad. The Maggiano’s Salad features a palate-pleasing combination of iceberg and romaine lettuce, blue cheese crumbles, prosciutto fried to a tasty crisp, red onions and the signature house dressing. For lunch, it’s a meal in itself.  For dinner, choose an entrée from the specialty pastas, classic pastas, chef’s favorites and more. And, here’s a hint: Mom’s Lasagna can’t be beat.

Good Italian food exists in south Naperville. Tucked away in a somewhat unlikely spot, Dolce Amore is a bit of a chameleon. This great family-oriented place that’s open for lunch only a few days a week, also has carryout available, dinner every night of the week and entertainment Thursday through Saturday nights with dancing until 1 a.m. Offering a wide variety of appetizers, salads, traditional pasta entrées and meat and fish options, diners can enjoy a delicious night out quite affordably. A favorite pasta dish is the Rigatoni Arrabiato with prosciutto and a spicy red sauce. And, guests can enjoy a generously sized pre- or post-dinner martini or glass of wine in the lounge.

Luigi’s House

Just a stone’s throw from Naperville proper is Luigi’s House—a family-friendly restaurant that’s also a nice spot for a dinner date for two. Comfort abounds from the vast menu of appetizer and entrée choices. And, there’s quite a nice variety of wine options; be sure to check out the wine room when waiting for a table. There also are a variety of dining atmospheres from which to choose. For a romantic occasion, request the starlight room—a smaller room off of the main hallway that features terracotta pots on the ceiling from which little white lights blink. Charming! As for cuisine, start with a bowl of the Pasta e Fagioli—a thick, white bean soup with a light tomato flavor. Then, choose a traditional pasta entrée with red sauce like angel hair or fettuccine. The Country Rigatoni with pancetta bacon, sausage, mushrooms and a light cream sauce is a nice departure from the traditional and more predictable choices. Enjoy a glass of wine before or after dinner in Julian’s Piano Bar, which features live entertainment Thursday through Sunday.

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