Discovery of a New Italian Favorite: Buona Terra
This weekend, Win and I went out to dinner near Logan Square, a cute, developing neighborhood here in Chicago. Win has a great time picking restaurants for us to try and he's got excellent instincts about what will please us and what won't. When he found a place called Buona Terra in Zagat, he thought its score of 22 for food, 21 for décor, 22 for service and average cost of $24 for dinner seemed like a great combination. (For those unfamiliar with the Zagat Guide’s rating system, 30 is the highest score and the Buona Terra scores rank in the “very good to excellent” level.) As usual, his judgment was spot on with this weekend's pick.
Buona Terra is a charming, intimate Italian restaurant with delicious food. When we arrived, the place was packed so we decided to sit at the bar and have a drink while waiting for a table. While perusing the wine list, we were thrilled to see Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico on the list. We got engaged in Venice almost 6 years ago at a restaurant called Il Vecchio Fritolin. The wine we were drinking that night was a Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico Reserva 1994. Before even knowing I was going to get proposed to, I thought the wine was really good and I actually wrote down what it was so that we could remember it for the future and perhaps enjoy it again. It’s been nearly impossible for me to track down this wine in the US so it was a real treat to see a Borgo Scopeto on Buona Terra’s wine list. We like the wine independent of its involvement in our special evening, but we do always remember it as our engagement wine.
Anyway, we ordered a bottle of the Borgo Scopeto and enjoyed a glass at the Buona Terra bar. We mentioned our happiness in seeing this bottle of wine to the bartender, a friendly, engaging woman who turns out to be the co-owner of the restaurant. Her husband is the chef and she filled us in on his background. Turns out he's from Mexico and was raised on a dairy farm there. He trained in a number of Chicago restaurants over the years, mostly in the classic French style. When he decided to open his own place, he chose Italian cuisine because it's what he loves, but he still employs a lot of his French training in his dishes.
When our table was ready, we moved on and poured over the menu. Practically every dish looked good, so choosing was hard. I had been dreaming of good pasta all week, so I knew I was doing pasta as my main course. I'm a huge sucker for Caprese, so despite numerous interesting appetizer selections I went with the Caprese (sliced tomato with fresh mozzarella and basil). Win chose the Proscuitto e Mozzarella all Ferri (mozzarella wrapped with proscuitto and grilled; served over mixed greens and balsamic vinegar). Here's a look at our appetizers. Win's Proscuitto e Mozzarella all Ferri is on the left; my Caprese is on the right.
The appetizers were really good. My Caprese was delicious but Win’s Proscuitto e Mozzarella was amazing. The cheese and the proscuitto had a delicious grilled taste that really enhanced their flavors and the meat and cheese paired very well with the greens and balsamic.
For my entrée, I chose the Rigatoni Buona Terra and Win selected the Ravioli con Vittello. Rigatoni Buona Terra is rigatoni pasta tossed in a sun-dried tomato cream and topped with roasted walnuts and goat cheese. Ravioli con Vittelo is ravioli pasta stuffed with veal in a brandy cream sauce and topped with fresh mozzarella. Here is a photo of our entrees, again with Win’s on the left and mine on the right:
Both were very rich and delicious. Win’s ravioli was filled with tender veal and the brandy cream sauce was heavenly. Overall a really gorgeous combination of flavors. My rigatoni was in a more powerful, yet very creamy and rich, tomato sauce that was superb.
I was too full for dessert but Win ordered a vanilla gelato with chocolate sauce. The chocolate sauce had a really unique malted milk quality to it that gave the already delicious sauce an even more special edge. How do I know this if I was too full for dessert, you ask? The very kind (and perceptive) waiter brought two spoons and who can say no to gelato when an extra spoon is right there?
Normally one or both of us would have sampled something from the Secondi Piatti section of their menu but we will have to save that for next time. Besides pasta, Buona Terra offers a number of interesting red meat, pork, fish and chicken dishes.
Buona Terra has a comfortable atmosphere, a friendly and helpful staff, and hardworking owners. The food is excellent and the prices reasonable. With just one visit, it easily became one of our new favorites.
2535 North California
Chicago, IL 60647
Next time: It's 8:30pm...where is everybody?