Being Italian comes with a wide variety of conversational disagreements. For men, it might relate to politics or soccer teams, how to make wine or how to build something. For women, I’ve encountered more conflicts over recipe than I care to recall.
Can we talk about a Bolognese sauce? In my opinion, it tastes best when the meat is a blend of both beef and pork, a bit of wine has been added in the cooking process, and, for that true Bolognese taste, there’s a dash of cream at the end to lighten up the color and add a bit of richness to the flavor. But if you sit at a table of five Italian immigrant women, you’ll get at least five different, yet similar, recipes in a debate for the best Bolognese.
The same holds true for marinara, minestrone, lasagna, tortellini or tortellacci filling. That’s the beauty of homestyle Italian cooking, or la cucina casalinga as it’s known in Italy. Every homemaker has their favorite version, all of them delicious!
This debate has made its way into Italian-American homes as well. We first-, second- and third-generation Italians revere our cuisine so much that we want to make sure that it always reflect our ancestors’ traditions. That’s why it’s challenging to eat at Italian restaurants. It’s never how we would make it. Well of course not, because WE didn’t make it!
With that, our journey continues to some of my favorite local Italian spots. If you haven’t been here, be sure to try them out. They’re authentically Italian and the quality is outstanding! Even our mothers and grandmothers would enjoy eating here!
Deerfield Italian Kitchen
648 Deerfield Road
Deerfield, Illinois 60015
The Sciarretta Family has been running this restaurant for more than 50 years. Maria, who is originally from Bari, and her husband John, originally from Abruzzo, started in half the space with Maria’s home cooking and John’s pizza making. As their four children came along, the business continued to grow, eventually requiring expansion. For the last several years, their youngest son, Johnny, and his wife, Emerald, have been running the show. Maria still works in the kitchen to ensure the high standards of the recipes. Chicken limone, tortellacci with tomato cream sauce and truffle risotto are among a long list of customer favorites. Daily Specials include $12 dinners on Tuesday, all-you-can-eat pasta on Wednesday night, and live jazz on Thursday night with 50 percent off all bottled wine. And while Friday is seafood night, fresh seafood is delivered here daily. Italian Kitchen accommodates special functions with private seating for up to 50 and off-premise catering for up to 500. For a delicious, casual dining experience, try them out. Many Italians do!
Trattoria Valle d’Itria
581 Roger Williams Ave.
Highland Park, Illinois 60035
Lunch Monday through Friday, Dinner nightly
Giovanni Chirulli is from Cisternino, Puglia. Trained at the Scuola Alberghiera in Brindisi and Kendall College, he received his culinary initiation while traveling the West Coast and the Caribbean for Princess Cruise Line. Perhaps it was there that he acquired his unflagging commitment to customer satisfaction. In 2008 he opened a classic Italian restaurant to cater to the North Shore’s discriminating palate. Using the finest imported ingredients, including olive oils and flour, Giovanni shares his delicious recipes with us. Favorites include homemade pasta al prosciutto with garlic-cream sauce, linguini frutti di mare (red or white sauce) and brick-oven pizza. Can you say tiramisu? I know I can, and it’s great here! Ask Giovanni about his off-site catering. Pizza Night on Monday features $6.95 for one topping. Enjoy your authentic Italian meal in an elegant atmosphere at cozy Ravinia.