After one taste of true Italian food, an evening at Olive Garden just doesn't cut it, and any quest for authentic and affordable French fare usually ends with a lackluster dining experience. So what is a Euro-phile to do in Chicagoland? This is where Convito Cafe & Market—a brilliant merging of Betise Cafe and Convito Italiano—sweeps in to save the day.
Drawing on Mediterranean simplicity and French cottage-chicness, Convito's simple environs set an idyllic stage for the country fare on offer. Start your meal with the delightfully light takes on Prince Edward Island mussels and escargot. Both opening options make culinary mountains out of parsley, garlic and butter, and leave room for the rich entrees that come next. An earthy pasta menu pulls most of its inspiration from Bolognese cuisine, but those looking for a lighter dish should try the cavatappi fresca. Fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, arugula and artichokes are tossed in oregano and olive oil, offering a breezy alternative to the heavier side of the menu. Pan-seared calf's liver made with Vidalia onions and grain mustard might not be the most politically correct nosh around, but it sure is tasty. Also sublime is the herb-crusted Atlantic salmon salad with champagne vinaigrette. The caliber of the food makes the $10-$28 per plate dinner prices seem like a steal, but for a lower-cost Convito experience, show up for Sunday brunch. Grab a seat on the outdoor patio, feel the gentle breeze from the lake in your hair and order the day's special crepe, quiche or omelet.
Convito isn't just for eating in; the gourmet food market offers some small-batch olive oils, aged balsamic vinegars and pasta made fresh daily. The cheese and wine selections are both inspired, and the folks here will even put gift baskets together for you.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: K. Tighe