Donatella’s Mediterranean Bistro Opens in Evanston

Do Tell, Donatella!

You may remember the late, lamented Donatella’s Ristorante on Howard Street in Chicago, just over the Evanston border. Donatella Majore herself was in the cucina, cooking up her Italian specialties, straight from the heart.

Happily, Donatella has returned to the northern suburbs, this time with a young partner, Chef Paolo Di Costanzo. She’s still prepping the food and making the desserts, but now she leaves the line work to Paolo, and she’s out front working the room, chatting with customers, taking orders and directing traffic.

It’s great to have her back. We had a terrific meal there recently, marred only by uneven service and timing. The menu, though still small, now reflects some new flavors, although the main gist remains authentic trattoria-style Italian.

“You must try the Special Antipasto plate. It’s beautiful!” insisted Donatella, and who were we to say no? Creamy rounds of burrata cheese, rosy slices of prosciutto and speck, olives and delectable, freshly marinated artichoke ($16), perfect for sharing.

The Tuna Tartare ($14) was seasoned with shallots, ginger, olive oil and soy sauce, and it was gorgeous. We spread it on the pizza crostini crackers and munched happily away.

Vegetarians will appreciate the Trio of Bruschetta ($6), crispy crostini piled high with goat cheese and mushroom duxelles, tomatoes and herbs, and an earthy lentil puree.

Do not miss the Ragu Bianco ($10), homemade pasta tossed with turkey and lamb meat sauce and finished with sage, nutmeg and mascarpone cheese. I’m still not sure how it possibly came off as light, but it did. Sort of miraculous.

If Donatella is offering the special Snapper Baked in a Salt Crust ($23), grab it. They remove the crust, skin and bones in the kitchen, leaving you with moist, perfectly seasoned fish. The kitchen has a nice way with salmon, too, grilling a filet and serving it over sautéed green beans with tender baby arugula and olives ($15).

Loved the Cotoletta ($12), a real bargain. Panko-crusted chicken breast is sautéed and then topped with an arugula and herb salad and some grilled Portobello mushrooms. Yummity-yum.

Dessert did not disappoint ($6 each). The Key Lime Pie was unexpectedly terrific— this is an Italian restaurant, right? And the Panna Cotta, lightly flavored with rose water and fresh vanilla bean, was perfecto. The Vulcan Cake, Donatello’s version of the chocolate lava cake, was deep, dense and chocolatey.

Open for lunch and dinner—and even Italian breakfast Friday-Sunday—Donatella is back in my regular restaurant rotation. I’ve got a taste for that Ragu Bianco right now, as a matter of fact. Gotta go! Ciao!

1512 Sherman Ave.

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