Saturday, December 16, 2006

Panera Bread on Roosevelt (Danada), Glen Ellyn

You may think of Panera Bread as an upscale sandwich shop, which it is. But, for the past year, the eatery has been offering its Crispani (aka, pizza). But this is not the kind of pizza you'd find at Barone's (one of my all-time favorites) or Pizza Hut.

Panera's delicious version has a perfect flatbread crust with a variety of topping choices: Roasted Wild Mushroom--roasted crimini mushrooms, fresh Shiitake mushrooms, fresh basil, roasted garlic, olive oil and fontina & mozzarella cheeses; Three Cheese--fontina, fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, roasted garlic, salt and pepper; Pepperoni--all-natural Wellshire Farms pepperoni, organic Muir Glen tomatoes, fresh basil and fontina & asiago-Parmesan cheeses; Sweet Sausage & Apple--all-natural Niman Ranch sausage, fresh apple slices, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes, olive oil, roasted garlic and fontina, Parmesan and romano cheeses; Tomato & Fresh Basil--organic Muir Glen tomatoes, fresh basil, roasted garlic, asiago-Parmesan and fresh mozzarella; and, just added, BBQ Chicken--smoked and pulled white meat chicken, mild BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, fresh cilantro, roasted garlic and fontina and mozzarella cheeses. The bread is crispy, but not at all dry or flaky. All of the ingredients, no matter which one you order, taste fresh. I particularly like the Sweet Sausage & Apple version--the combination of the apples, sausage and caramelized onions is such a perfect pairing, coupled with the aromatics and cheeses you may find yourself ordering two! While a hungery adult would have no problem finishing off an entire Crispani, two adults would be content by complementing their order with a hand-tossed salad or a hot soup. Kids would absolutely love ordering the flatbread, and enjoy it even more devouring it. Crispanis range in price from $6.95-$8.95, and are offered hot from the oven after 4 p.m.--allow 15 minutes for preparation, which is brought to your table by a server (the "dining room" is another aspect of this particular Panera I like...there's a fireplace, a few comfy chairs, and tables that are nicely spaced out for privacy and comfort). You can't go wrong with the Crispani--I highly recommend it, and will make me way through the entire flatbread menu.

For more information, visit (541-543 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn, 630/942-8955.

On a scale of 1 to 5 forks (1 fork is not good), I'd give Panera Bread's Crispani 4 forks. Happy Eating! Mr. Foodie

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Trucchi Italian Bistro on Main St., Downers Grove

A straightforward menu oftentimes yields a rewarding dining experience. This happened to be the case when I ended up in Downers Grove Friday night at Trucchi Italian Bistro.

The restaurant's menu is not complicated, but it offers a variety of ingredients and homecooked foods to satisfy all hunger diners. I started my meal with a bowl of creamy parsnip soup with smoked chicken and chives ($5)--the soup was rather good, mild and soothing, perfect for a cold, windy Midwestern Winter night. For my entree, I decided on one of the specials for the evening, risotto made with carnaroli rice mixed with quartered artichokes hearts, white truffle oil and topped with Parmigiano ($15). It seemed to me the risotto was freshly prepared, which is not often the case when it comes to risotto in some operations. The rice was cooked al dente, which is the way I like my risotto, but there could have been a bit more liquid, a bit more moisture to the dish. Also, I had the sense that perhaps the wine used in preparing the risotto was a bit too sweet because I had an overwhelming lemony taste, which could have come from the artichokes (I'm not sure if they were fresh or out of a jar...I'm guessing jar). My wife decided not to order an entree and instead have a salad of mixed greens, Amaretti-coated goat cheese, baked grapes, walnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette ($5). The combination of the smooth, room temperature goat cheese, (warm) baked grapes and toasted walnuts made for a classic winter dish. She also order an antipasti for her main course...a crispy grilled flatbread with grilled chicken, roasted tomatoes, wild mushrooms, frisee salad, (drizzled with) red wine vinaigrette and topped with melted fontina cheese ($10). It may seem there is too much on the flatbread, but in actuality the antipasto was excellent. The crispy flatbread held up well and did not go limp and get soggy, and the combination of flavorful grilled chicken, roasted tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms, with wilted frisee salad was exceedingly nice...the melted fontina, probably from being placed under a salamander (a small broiler oven), was nicely browned and bubbly. Other items on the antipasto menu range from carpaccio with white truffle oil, argula, lemon vinaigrette, capers, dice tomatoes and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano ($12) to fresh salmon on crostinis with onion, dill, cucumber and mascarpone ($9) to the traditional fried calamari ($9) and much more; there are also a number of traditional Italian salads all for $5. Pastas are bountiful in all shapes and sizes, such as angel hair with a red grape basil sauce and Tuscan pecorino cheese ($10) to linguini with sauteed scallops and shrimp ($17) to cockscrew pasta with chicken breast, artichokes, peas, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and rosemary-scented Parmigiano sauce ($15) to four cheese ravioli bologenese ($15). If those dishes don't grab your attention, Trucchi also menus a grilled Gulf of Mexico red grouper ($24), an oven-poached whitefish ($15) and an oven-roasted Normegian salmon ($19). For Italian meat lovers, you can choose from grilled Berkshire double pork chops served with sauteed Brussels sprouts, chestnut polenta with an apple-brandy sauce ($19) to a 10 oz. beef tenderloin topped with Gorgonzola ($29) to sauteed veal scallopine ($23) and more. The traditional Italian desserts are menued, but don't pass on the tiramisu ($6), which is made with ladyfingers, mascarpone, espresso and chocolate...truly decedant and worth the calories. A full bar is available, including a moderate wine list or reds and white ranging in price from $28-$115; by the glass is an option too, $5.5-$11. Trucchi can host private parties up to 75 people, and they can cater your private dinner parties. Service was attentive and friendly, but the restaurant tries to make the most of its space, so the tables are a bit too close to each other.

For more information, visit (5141 Main St., Downers Grove, 630/434-7770).

On a scale of 1 fork to 5 forks (1 fork is not good), I'd give Trucchi Italian Bistro 3 forks. Happy eating! Mr. Foodie