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Vin for a Fin

Frasca's $5 wine deal is as good as it sounds.
Tuesday Jul 08, 2008.     By Dana Kavan
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Drink of the week: Row Eleven Pinot Noir

Where you can find it: Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar.

The damage: $5 per glass discounted from $12 on Tuesday.

Why here? I'm generally a positive person, but I'm always skeptical of drink deals that sound a bit too good. This paranoia stems from one of the worst service blunders I've ever experienced. My boyfriend and I went to the now shuttered XO on a night when bottles of wine were half price. Our friendly waiter strongly pushed a $60-plus bottle of red, and, since we were getting it for 50 percent less, we let him talk us into it. Then the bill came. He had recommended a wine that wasn't on special and failed to mention this; complaining got us nowhere and we were saddled with a pricey bill. So when my friends recommended we go to Frasca on Tuesday, when glasses of wine cost just $5, I figured our options would be limited to varieties on par with Yellow Tail. I was wrong. Any wine on the menu was up for grabs.

How it went down: I arrived slightly late and my friends were already halfway through their first glass of Row Eleven, singing its praises as one of the tastiest pinot noirs they'd tried. I took a sip and promptly ordered my own. The light-bodied pinot from Santa Barbara, California manages to be robust but highly drinkable and refreshing. It starts off a bit tart, with hints of raspberry and cherry, and ends with the slightest peppery kick. Its subtle silkiness makes it perfect for pairing with a variety of eats, but we simply chose a whole mess of pizzas.

Frasca fires up its pies in an 800-degree wood-burning oven that churns out the pizzas in just two minutes. We ordered four for seven of us, and nearly finished each slice, despite having already gone to town on the bruschetta trio and complimentary focaccia. The slightly chewy crust came loaded with sweet red peppers and hunks of artichokes on one, thick rounds of charred pepperoni on another.

Would I want to become a regular? Despite gorging ourselves on the 'za, we couldn't resist ordering cinnamon doughnut holes served with vanilla gelato for dessert. As we dunked the hot mounds of sugary goodness into the creamy gelato, we fell back into the red leather booth, gazed at the dimly lit environs, and slowly slipped into food comas. To be sure, our wine drinking had something to do with our lethargic state, too. We managed to put back a few more glasses of Row Eleven over the course of our meal, knowing we wouldn't be shocked when the bill came.

Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.


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