Geography isn't my thing, which explains why I had no idea that Veneto is a region of northern Italy. But I do know good Italian cooking when I taste it, and I definitely tasted it at Via Veneto, a jewel of a restaurant on Chicago's Northwest Side that proves Little Italy isn't the only place to go for authentic, out-of-the-ordinary Italian.
The dining room is traditional, tasteful and as warm as the wait staff. It's casual but upscale, family friendly and a fit for just about any occasion.
The menu, creative without being complicated, features fresh pasta, seafood, chicken and veal dishes. As far as appetizers go, crowd favorites include charcoal-broiled octopus and the vegetable-stuffed acorn squash topped with goat cheese ($10.95 and $8.95, respectively).
The list of pastas is overwhelmingly long and outrageously tempting, so turn to the specialties of the house if you can't make up your mind: homemade spinach-and-veal-stuffed cappellacci pasta, pumpkin-filled ravioli (or any one of the signature ravioli dishes), or buttery Chilean sea bass grilled with garlic and oil and served with spinach and cannellini beans. Traditionalists will appreciate Italian standards like chicken vesuvio, veal parmigiano and cioppino. And no Italian experience is complete without dessert. Fortunately, the tiramisu packs quite a punch. Though there's a great wine list, you can BYO with an $8-$10 corkage fee.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Natalie Goldstein