This weekend, I wanted to bring Erin out someplace nice, mostly because we have so many seemingly great restaurants around us. This was supposed to happen on Friday, but we had too many snacks and neither of us were all that hungry. So, instead we headed out Saturday night.
La Scarola is a place that I walk by quite often because it lies on the route that I take home from work. From the outside, the place appears insanely small. All you see is, essentially, a box room stuffed with tables. However, it’s always packed and it looked like a fun spot from the outside, a neighborhood Italian restaurant.
We got there between 7:30 and 8 on Saturday. The place was packed. We were greeted by the host, who we found out later was the owner. He asked if we had reservations, which we did not. Our plan was to come here, and if it was packed, we’d just walk to any of the other restaurants in the area. Even though we didn’t have a reservation, there happened to be a seat for two that he sat us at.
As we walked in, we saw that there was actually a whole other area that you don’t notice from the street. We were actually seated in this area, right near the bar in the smoking section. The area, thankfully, didn’t smell of smoke at all. In fact, the only way I knew it was a smoking section was because of the ashtray on the table.
We were quickly greeted by our waiter who took our incredibly difficult drink order of two waters. Bread was brought to the table as we scoured the menu (which can actually be viewed online from the link at the end of the review). The menu consisted of many classic Italian pasta dishes, but there were also some excellent sounding seafood dishes too. I decided upon the Chicken special consisting of chicken breasts covered with prosciutto and mozzarella cheese. This was then set on a bed of spinach with olive oil and pine nuts. I had this with a house salad, and Erin decided to play it safe with Ravioli and their Pasta & Fagiole soup.
The salad consisted of a mix romaine and spinach greens, with tomatoes, red peppers, and olives. The salad dressing was a vinaigrette, and there was incredibly way too much of it. I was tempted to throw a life jacket in there for some of the greens at the bottom. Also, the red pepper was slightly intimidating. It looked like it was an attempt at roasting it, but there was no caramelization. Instead it was just limp on the greens. I was also disappointed to see a core from one of the heads of lettuce, but otherwise it was tasty. Erin’s soup, on the other hand, was simply amazing. The pasta and beans were tender, but not mushy, and the broth was light and flavorful. According to the article on the wall next to me, and more professional-than-I reviewer said it was by far the best Past & Fagiole soup in the town (along with their own menu). Maybe it was the white wine they add to the sauce?
As we awaited our main course, the place became more and more full. People started waiting at the bar, which significantly reduced the isle between them and us. We weren’t getting hit by waiters or anything, but it felt a little cramped.
Being a typical Italian restaurant the proportions are huge. My plate consisted of 3 medium to small size chicken breasts. The chicken was done quite well. Obviously pan seared and then baked to melt the mozzarella over the prosciutto and chicken. The chicken breasts were nicely browned and the mozzarella was nice and bubbly. I could’ve done with less olive oil in the bottom of the plate, since that’s essentially what everything was sitting in, but it went well with the spinach and pine nuts.
Erin’s ravioli was also delicious. The pasta was actually a bit thicker than most ravioli, so you could actually taste the pasta and not just the filling. The filling also very tasty. The ricotta cheese was very smooth and the tomato sauce had a hint of sweetness to it.
Overall the experience was quite good and I’d definitely go back to La Scarola, especially to try and figure out their Pasta & Fagiole soup!
Price:…………$15-30 per plate excluding beverages
721 West Grand
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: (312) 243 – 1740
Fax: (312) 243 – 1742