Saranello’s, the newest member in the Lettuce Entertain You family, has opened in the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling.
And like its portions, it’s generously sized, boasting 6700 square feet and seating 150 in the restaurant, more in the comfy bar area, plus private dining for another 100.
Being a hotel restaurant—even with a separate entrance—it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day of the week. The feel is comfortable and homey (or at least as homey as a big restaurant can feel), and since they lowered the ceiling from the previous restaurant, much less cavernous.
Where to Sit?
You’ll want to sit in the main part of the dining room. We were shuttled off to the raised section, which feels cut off from the rest of the room, and denied us the benefit of the rolling wine and cookie carts, to which I must admit I was looking forward. What’s cheerier than a rolling cookie cart?
As with every Lettuce property, you know that Executive Chef/Partner Mychael Bonner’s menu was subjected to myriad tastings, so I’m curious as to how a few duds snuck through. Happily, most of the meal was quite tasty, especially if you start off with a signature cocktail ($10) like the Orange Sicilian (St. Germaine, Tru gin, blood orange puree) or the Chianti Sangria (house Chianti with Mt. Gay rum, agave nectar and ginger beer—my husband’s a sucker for ginger beer).
So Much Cheese!!!
Please pass up the Stuffed Artichoke ($9.95), heavily loaded with sodden breadcrumbs and so much Parmesan and olive oil that I fear a shortage in the Chicago area. Opt instead for the Crosta Due ($13.95), a double-crusted wonder filled with oozy Robiola and Mascarpone cheeses, gilded with truffle oil. I don’t even want to know the calorie count, but I don’t regret it for a second.
The Tomato and Burrata Salad ($9.95), made with house-made fresh burrata, miraculously appeared with perfect, ripe tomatoes, lemony arugula and toasty crostini.
Not enough cheese yet? The Bar Pizzas ($11.95-13.95) won’t disappoint. A thin focaccia crust, baked in a square pan and served hotHOTHOT at your table, dripping with melted cheese. That’s not a bad thing.
Entrees Go 3 for 4
According to our server, Saranello’s is proud of their in-house pastas, so we opted for the Cheese Lasagna alla Mioni ($13.95) with marinara sauce (also available with meat sauce). It was surprisingly light and fluffy.
We weren’t quite as lucky with the Sea Bass Fra Diavolo with Linguine ($24.95), insipid chunks of sea bass sprinkled over a nest of al dente linguine and kinda spicy tomato sauce. Would have been better served as a whole filet with the linguine as a side. It works with shrimp, maybe, but not with “crumbled” (as our server explained it) sea bass.
Chicken Di Gregorio ($17.95) and the Marinated Skirt Steak ($23.95) were solid performers, with plenty left over to take home. The chicken was crusted with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, sautéed and served with a sprightly arugula salad on top and a (purportedly) lemon sauce on the side; the skirt was juicy and meaty and served with jus and caramelized onions. The steak looked lonely on the plate without a side dish. Luckily, we ordered the Mascarpone Soft Polenta ($5.95), which I must insist that you do as well. Lusciousness.
Rice Pudding Gelato. You Heard Me.
A sweet ending is always necessary, so we went with the Chocolate Mascarpone Pie ($6.95), Assorted Cookie Plate ($6.95) and a scoop of the homemade Rice Pudding Gelato ($3.95). The Pie was sweet, not overly chocolatey, but serviceable. The cookies (which I would have liked to pick myself from the Rolling Cookie Cart, and yes, I’m still ticked about it) were decent. The gelato, however, was quite delish, and the only dessert that we finished.
With a large party, or huge eaters, you might choose the Pranzo Perfetto, a family-style option with antipasti platter, choice of three salads/appetizers, two pasta dishes, two entrees and two desserts for the table at $34.95 per person.
You will not leave Saranello’s hungry, that’s for sure.
3 out of 5 stars