In retrospect, there are probably one too many Italian places to eat at in Chicago. I have nothing against Italian cuisine, but…well, it can get boring sometimes with the same pasta or pizza or risotto etcetera etcetera dishes. Plus it’s usually easy to make at home. I don’t like eating food at restaurants that can easily be made at home. So I’m pretty glad that the Italian Village in downtown Chicago has a wide selection of Italian food – so wide that they had to have three different restaurants to accommodate it all.
The Italian Village restaurants are located in one building on 71 West Monroe, with three different ‘grades’ of restaurants. The upstairs level is called The Village, which is actually the lowest grade, filled with more ordinary yet very filling Italian food. The street level restaurant is Vivere, the highest grade, and most expensive out of the three. And La Cantina is the basement level restaurant, and is the middling grade restaurant.
I kind of expected the three grades of restaurants to correspond to their floor level, so was surprised when they didn’t. Now that I think about it, the reason why they put Vivere on the street level was probably because they want to force those who are too lazy to walk up or down the stairs to walk straight into the most expensive of the three restaurants. Strategic placement. Very strategic. But I still went to The Village with my ‘date’ for Valentine’s Day, so I suppose everything’s fine.
The Village is a very dim, rustic place with a bar and many little “cul-de-sacs” with booths in them, adding to the private yet cosy atmosphere. Well, it would have been cozier if it wasn’t so dark. So maybe the atmosphere was more like “slightly suspicious” than “cosy”. Hm. Anyway, I did like the walls with the 3D Italian landscape and LED lights embedded in where the windows and stars are supposed to be. I guess the place wanted to pretend it was somewhere overlooking the romantic shores of Italy, which was why there were no windows in the place at all. Pity.
Food-wise, I got some minestrone soup, and also tried their seafood ravioli. The soup was very average, and kind of pricey for its size, but what can I do? Prevent inflation? If I had a superpower, it would be to prevent inflation. And to be able to single-handedly cure any economic crises. As for the ravioli, it was really good. I really enjoyed the creamy tomato sauce, which was more like a bisque, and the shrimp and scallops were cooked perfectly. The scallops were a little bland, but the sauce totally made up for it. The ravioli itself was okay; maybe a bit too cheesy because it was supposed to be filled with blended seafood but all I could taste was the cheese.
Service-wise, it was very fast and efficient. A little too fast and efficient if you ask me, because it felt like we were forced to rush through all our courses. We were in and out of the restaurant in 30 minutes! The waiters kept running about, so I’m sure they’re getting a lot of exercise while making sure they covered all the hidden booths, but still. They could have relaxed a little, and be more friendly, more Italian…I’m nit-picking again.
About $15 to $25 per person, so even though it was the cheapest of the three restaurants it still wasn’t that cheap. 6.5/10 stars.