Last Friday night, Josh and I didn’t have any plans (a rare event in our household), so we decided to go out to dinner. We had to choose somewhere with good vegetarian options because of lent. We were originally leaning towards French since the hubby is obsessed with Bouillabaisse (seafood stew…not my thing), but after browsing some menus online, Osteria Via Stato had a similar, Italian version of a seafood stew, so we went with that! I’ve been to this restaurant a few times but not in the past few years so I was excited to go back! I was not let down at all, what a great experience overall. Our waitress was very good and helped us pick out a fantastic bottle of wine to pair with our entrees, the atmosphere was great, dim, romantic, quiet. We decided not to do the family style menu since it was only us two and ordered everything a la carte. Traditional to Italian restaurants, they start you off with some bread and oil at the table, but theirs kicked it up a notch, having cloves of roasted garlic (one of my favorite things ever) infusing the oil; with a little bit of parm, this was a wonderful start. The garlic had a nice sweetness from roasting and the bread was served warm with a soft, chewy center and crusty outside. For entrees, Josh of course ordered the seafood stew and loved it. The broth had a nice spice to it and the scallops were the best I’ve ever had; cooked perfectly with a wonderful caramelized crust. I ordered the shrimp, spinach and leek risotto from the specials featured that evening. It was very good, but I should have known better than to order risotto when we can make an amazing one ourselves at home. I wasn’t disappointed by any means, but I should have gone with something I don’t or can’t make at home….but all of that aside, it was very rich and creamy, thinner than I am used to but all the cheesy goodness was there. We actually skipped dessert and ordered dessert coffees and wine instead. Their spiked cappuccinos came out piping hot and very thick and creamy. A wonderful ending! http://www.osteriaviastato.com/
We had friends coming in to town Saturday that we were planning to head to dinner with that evening. Since they were guests, we told them to let us know what kind of food they wanted and we’d find a great, under-the radar, non-touristy, non-chain ‘Chicago’ place to take them. Unexpectedly, they settled on Italian and wanted pasta! Had we known this ahead of time, we probably wouldn’t have gone out for Italian the night before, but maybe it’s the Italian in me but I could eat pasta every night and be quite content!! We decided on a place in the West Loop called La Luce. We’d been there once before and the food was delicious and we’ve been wanting to go back ever since and finally had the perfect opportunity. We made a reservation for the upstairs portion of the restaurant; a quieter, more open atmosphere, and usually fairly empty. Josh and I got there a little early and made ourselves at home at the bar to wait. The bartender, whom ended up being our waiter, was fantastic. Such a tremendous help and super nice. I was in one of those moods where I couldn’t decide what I wanted to drink, so he let me try two different proseccos and two different wines, even opening two bottles specifically for me to try. He also helped quite a few people at the table choose entrees and no one seemed disappointed. Same as usual, they started us out with some warm bread and bottle of olive oil and jar of parmesan at the table, which I love and much prefer….I’d rather make my own dipping oil, but that’s just me! For the table, we ordered calamari and mussels, neither of which I tried but everyone said they were good and there were none left on either plate, so I take that to mean they were good! For entrees, Josh ended up with seafood linguine (it’s fine, apparently he’s addicted to seafood medleys) and I went with the scallops. His was very tasty, the white wine marinara sauce was delicious and I couldn’t help but sop some up with some warm bread! My scallops were also very good, cooked well, but I was biased from the ones I tried the night before at Osteria Via Stato. Those were just cooked so amazingly that these were not quite as good…had I not had those though, I would have thought there were very good! And to boot, one of the men in our party is a chef in Michigan and he said the meal was good, and to me, that says a lot! http://www.lalucewestloop.com/
As if we didn’t eat enough Italian, we decided to make a different version of baked mostaccioli Sunday night…we have a sickness, it’s fine!! Instead of using ground beef, we used sausage and instead of using homemade gravy, I used a bottled sauce from Trader Joe’s to save some time. Here’s the recipe I used:
- 1 lb. mostaccioli
- 1 container ricotta cheese
- 1 package mozzarella cheese (thanks Em)!
- 1 egg
- parmesan to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Italian sausage
- Trader Joe’s marinara sauce (bottled sauce, I know, I’m embarrassed)!
Cook mostaccioli al dente, drain. Brown sausage and cook in pan. Meanwhile, mix ricotta with a lot of parm, the egg, a few cloves of minced garlic, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Mix together pasta, ricotta mixture, sausage, 1/2 the mozzarella, and the sauce. Pour into a casserole pan and top with remaining mozzarella cheese and parm. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until center is hot. Let stand 10-15 minutes before eating.
Overall, a great weekend for food and I would highly recommend both restaurants if ever looking for a delicious Italian meal in Chicago! As for the baked mostaccioli, it was pretty good, but doesn’t even come close to my gram’s! Had I used homemade gravy, it definitely would have been better, but time was not on my side that day my friends!