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Every Neighborhood has one:
The Cool Neighbor
It’s the house with the funny mom who doesn’t take any crap from anyone and loves everyone like her own.
It’s the house that always has the crowd and that is full of laughter and the good-natured ribbing that only happens between people who really know each other.
It always smells amazing, and there is always something delicious coming off the stove. The kids love it because the food is good and the dessert is better. The adults love it because the food is good, the wine is good, and it feels like home.
For 25 years, we’ve been that cool neighbor on Halsted Street.
Two blocks from Steppenwolf Theatre and just steps from the Armitage Avenue shopping district, Pasta Palazzo serves authentic Italian cuisine that is both innovative and traditional.
The culinary focus is on the freshest ingredients with simple preparations. The real focus is you, the customer, feeling like you can kick back and relax into the food, wine, and warmth around you.
In the UK, they call it “ your local.” Here, we just call it Pasta Palazzo.
Smoking: Don't Even Think About It
Are you kidding? Can we cook for a crowd? It's what we do, people. Give us a call.
Lincoln Park locals “love” this “cozy” Italian with “attentive service” and “reasonable prices” for “pasta and more pasta” (try the jalapeño gnocchi), “great salads” and “excellent apps”; the “casual” spot can be “loud”, but most say it’s an “enjoyable stop for a neighborhood” meal; P.S. no reservations, but they now accept credit cards.
Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels
Rachael takes us across the U.S. to her picks for the best Italian food at the best value. She’s out to prove that you don’t need to cross the Atlantic to sail into some fine eateries.
Hmm. A narrow storefront with barstool-style chairs at high bare tables. Bar seating near an open kitchen. I thought I had walked into a pub until the small menu set me straight. It begins with smoky grilled calamari in a lemon herb vinaigrette and baked goat cheese with tomato-basil sauce and garlic toast. Conchiglie shells with Italian sausage and red bell peppers in marinara topped with melting ricotta ($9) are every bit as savory as the penne with porcini, portobello, and white mushrooms in Marsala sauce. Moist espresso cake is the perfect nightcap: coffee and cake rolled into one.
–Dennis Ray Wheaton
Cheap Eats – 4 forks
Diner al’Italiana – Pasta Palazzo calls itself a “gourmet pasta diner,” three words rarely strung together on a menu. But it fits here.
The designer-diner approach can be found in the ambience too. The requisite open kitchen is set against a wall that’s ablaze with bright-colored tiles forming a jazzy mosaic. High-backed wooden barstools of various colors adorn tall tables. Pasta Palazzo stays loyal to the diner ethic by making soloists comfortable with ample seating along a counter that runs nearly the length of the room.
The food underscores the idea here with a menu that lists a page full of Italian fare, each followed by prices usually seen following “BLT Club” and “Diet Plate.”
Fresh crusty Italian bread arrived shortly after we sat down (and was efficiently replenished later in the meal). We chose Grilled Calamari for an appetizer, which was substantial enough to share. Generous pieces of tender fresh squid, grilled in lemon, garlic and herbs present a fresh take on the more familiar breaded and fried version.
The mixed green salad delivers an abundance of colorful lettuces – and we ordered the smaller version. The Italian dressing, easy on the salt and a perfect pairing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar renders a refreshing light accent.
Farfalle Pomodoro Formaggio starts with bow tie pasta cooked perfectly al dente. Among the flavors heaped onto this foundation: crunchy pine nuts, creamy and mellow goat cheese, plenty of basil and fresh tomatoes.
Will there be room for dessert? Yes, if you take half your entrée home. The flourless chocolate cake is worth the sacrifice. The rich, dense flavor of chocolate dusted by confectioners sugar can’t be beat. Tiramisu and cheesecake are also offered.
Wines by the glass and bottle are offered, as are several bottled beers and soft drinks.
The staff is friendly and efficient which adds to the comfort level. All of the items are available for take-out, which may be a wiser option when the spot gets crowded.