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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Big Hit…Little Italy

Thursday, September 15, 2011 @ 08:09 AM

057I would like to say that the following scenario hasn’t happened all that often, but unfortunately there have been more than a few restaurants that Adam and I have either lived near or been extremely close to trying in a given city that we just never made it to.  While under normal circumstances this wouldn’t be a big deal, but as luck would have it I started writing this food blog and immediately start finding out about all these famous eateries and hot spots that we were at one point literally minutes from, didn’t try, and who knows when we will be near again.  In the case of my next feature, it’s actually an entire part Chicago we just never really made it to…Little Italy, located on the west side of the city, is a pocket of small family owned Italian joints known for some of the best authentic Italian food in the city.  Why we never ventured over that way, I’m not really sure. However, it was most likely due to the fact that when you live in a city, you often don’t venture out much past your comfortable everyday surroundings.  But whatever excuse I give does not excuse the fact that we were missing out, and luckily for us we still live relatively close to the city and can make weekend trips in to experience these places.

One such place had been on Adam’s radar screen for awhile after seeing if featured on Food Network’s “Diner’s, Drive-ins, and Dives”… Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap has been serving its locals their favorite Italian dishes for over 30 years.  Now operated by 3rd Generation owner Joe and his family, Tufano’s continues to serve quality cuisine, and treats all of their patrons just like one of the family, which we had the pleasure of finding out after talking to both Joe and his daughters.  An owner that is continuously making sure his customers come first and feel at home knows how to keep business going and it is very refreshing and welcome as a patron.  But before we get to that, let’s see what it was that won Adam over…

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cec8bEaILCE

All Adam could talk about after that episode was that dish they served with the pine nuts, which was all he could remember later when ordering during our dinner…, but again I’ll get to that.  We had decided to take an impromptu trip to Chicago for Valentine’s Day weekend, with no set plans in mind, but possibly enjoying a few days away and taking in some yummy food.  Like many of our trips to Chicago, we didn’t have any set food plans in mind, rather we decided we would play it by ear…, or rather stomach.  So after enjoying an afternoon at the movies, we decided that a nice homey Italian meal sounded right up our alley, so we ventured over to Little Italy to finally check Tufano’s out.

Although it was definitely a packed house that night, we were lucky we didn’t have to wait too terribly long and actually chatted with another family who was waiting; and they convinced us even more we had made the right food decision as this was the restaurant they always visit when they come into the city.  With the copious amounts of restaurant choices Chicago has to offer, if this is the place you seek out in the city every time you come in…, it must be a winner. The father of the family was even nice enough to introduce us to Joe (the owner), and before long we were escorted back to a table by Joe himself, who was full of life just like you would imagine. He genuinely seemed to love meeting and chatting with all of his customers, new and old.

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So after perusing the menu for a bit, Adam couldn’t quite remember what the dish was called, but he did know that it had some sort of lemony chicken and pine nuts involved. Lucky for us, the waitress knew right away, since it is one of their most popular dishes…The Chicken Picante with Pine Nuts is the name and Adam did not hesitate after she mentioned it.  I chose the simple shells and broccoli, since the first trimester pregnant lady in me was craving some simple flavors.  It wasn’t long before both dishes were presented before us.

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We quickly and happily dug in and I was able to sneak a couple of bites of that delicious chicken away from Adam.  My dish, although simple, totally hit the spot; and although it had quite a lot of olive oil and garlic, mixed in with the bites of broccoli were exactly what I was craving.  Adam even managed to save a little room for dessert…, spumoni, one of his favorites.  Yum!

We just really enjoyed the cozy and comfortable family atmosphere Tufano’s has to offer, and even though we had never been there before, the way we were treated you would have thought we had been coming there for years…, a true sign of a place that knows how to treat its customers. I can’t wait to go back!

SIGNATURE DISH: They aren’t really known for any one dish in particular, rather they focus on the traditional Italian favorites. However, it would seem that the stand out unique dish is their signature Chicken Picante with Pine Nuts; and we can attest that it is delicious!

TASTE: Everything we tried delicious. The flavors were clean and simple; and you know you are in for some good Italian when even the most basic dishes taste out of this world!  There is truly something to be said about focusing on simple flavors and allowing those to really work together, and Tufano’s does this to perfection.

AMBIANCE: I really enjoyed how homey this place felt. It is not overly extravagant, and this is a good thing. Unfortunately, many Italian restaurants try to “wow” you with the décor and fancy additions, probably to mask the fact that their food isn’t all that exciting.  But at Tufano’s they don’t have to mess around with a bunch of frou frou and let the excellent cuisine set the mood.

PRICE: Their menu was very reasonably priced, especially for Chicago. I was impressed that we got to enjoy such a great meal for not all that much money.  Adam’s dish was on the higher end at only $14.50, which for the amount of food he was served was a great deal.

SERVICE: The service really stood out…in a good way. Not only was our waitress super nice and helpful, but getting to chat with the owner and his daughters just proves that they go out of their way to make you feel like family.

For an impromptu weekend away and a last minute restaurant choice, I was more than impressed with Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap.  Not only did we feel as if we had been going there for years, but the food was all-around amazing!  So, if you are looking for that special Italian spot to hit up in Chi-Town, this is the place to go!  Well deserving of 5 ‘Little Piggies.’

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