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The Chicago Traveler

Improv Italian

by Matt B on May 31st, 2007

If you like inspiration and creativity all mixed together with a bit of Italian, you should try the improvisational cooking of Chef Gaetano Di Benedetto at La Piazza. Born and trained in Sicily, Di Benedetto has put together an extensive menu of authentic regional Italian fare. You won’t find any alfredos, spaghettis, or chicken vesuvios here. If you want a dish that will remind you of your Italian grandmother (or even the Italian grandmother you never had) or if you want something a little more adventurous, you’ll find it in this bi-level dining mecca.

Murals and iron railings help customers feel like they’re in an actual piazza, which is an Italian town square or marketplace. The restaurant is often alive with the sounds of jazz, talkative suburbanites, and even the chef as he requests feedback from his guests.

Appetizers include the caprese con la bufala, a salad of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and balsamic; it’s a simple dish, but it’s accomplished nowhere else like at La Piazza. But remember, Chef Gaetano likes to improvise, using ingredients not normally expected in an Italian restaurant. This is displayed in his carpaccio di barbabietole'thinly sliced beets in a honey-champagne vinaigrette, cherry tomatoes, and breaded goat cheese-and in the gumbo mambo italiano-a spicy shrimp bisque with Italian sausage. Another spicy dish is the rigatoni alla trasteverina'rigatoni pasta with Italian sausage and mushrooms in a tomato-cream sauce. Perhaps you’ll be enticed by the stringozzi pasta with shallots, walnuts, pears, and sea scallops. If you’re up for an adventure and very hungry, you may opt for the Chef’s Choice. Di Benedetto will greet you and your guests at your table, ask you a few questions about what you like, and present you with an onslaught of food: nearly a dozen appetizers, a handful of entrees, and a sample of almost every dessert on the menu!

With traditional and off-the-beaten-path cuisine, this Italian eatery is worth leaving the city limits for.

La Piazza ($$$): 410 Circle Ave (Forest Park); 708-366-4010
Mon - Thurs: 4:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Fri - Sat: 4:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Street parking available; free lot across the street
Public trans: Pace Bus # 303, 305, 307, 310, 317, 318, 320
Blue Line train (Harlem)
Metra train (Oak Park)

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POSTED IN: Restaurants

1 opinion for Improv Italian

  • Brownie Hunter
    Jun 8, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    [...] closes in the early evening, so you just might have to eat your dessert before having dinner at La Piazza down the street. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. [...]

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