It is no small
secret that, when it comes to dining options in the Fox River
Valley, there is generally no shortage of venues that specialize in
Italian fare. And I can easily admit that I am definitely a
fan of Italian food. My guess would be that a large part of the
reason for that comes from my restaurant experience on the west coast where I met Chef
Joseph Insalago, the man who likely had the greatest influence on
my culinary abilities, not to mention my love of fine food. He
was a Master Chef in the truest sense of the definition, and I learned
much from him in my time at the Abbey, an excellent example of a
fine dining Restaurant, in Marina Del Rey, California.
So I would guess
that it is also no real secret -- certainly to those who know me
well -- that not only do I love to cook as well as to dine out, I
enjoy sharing my dining experiences, especially if the experiences
are memorable ones. One such experience took place just the
On the north end
of the strip mall on North Island Avenue in Batavia (River Square
Shopping Center) is a
space that has housed several restaurants previously. The
latest iteration -- having opened in the Fall of 2011 -- is
called Aliano's and, as one may assume from the name, it serves Italian
food. Since I have wanted for some time to give the place a
try, all I needed was an excuse. Actually, I had two: a long
day in the office in front of a computer screen is always a reason
to not head right into the kitchen and start cooking.
The second excuse came in the form of of a special promotion
that the City of Batavia was running called Restaurant Madness.
It was the City's first such event -- running March 3rd through
March 9th -- and offered a coupon that was good for 25% off the
dinner bill (with a few caveats with respect to tax, alcohol, etc.)
of numerous downtown restaurants.
had changed our original reservation date due to another of the
season's late snowstorms and it was back to the kitchen for me...
The good news is that spring snow amounts in this area fortunately
do not last long in early March, so we simply re-booked for a couple
of nights later.
One thing that I have learned about restaurants is
that parking lots usually tell an accurate story about how well
things are going inside. If that theory held, Aliano's should
be doing quite well (and they were); even though it was mid-week,
parking spaces that night were as scarce as Cubs' victories.
the restaurant, I was not surprised to see a significant occupancy
by diners; although it was just 6:30, the place was already more
than half full (as opposed to half empty...). Lighting was
just about perfect -- creating a warm ambiance, wait-staff were
professionally dressed in mostly black uniforms, tables were topped
with the obligatory fresh-white-paper-over-white cloths, bread &
butter plates, salt & pepper shakers and a small candle.
Polished wine glasses and black cloth napkins put the exclamation
point on a fine table presentation, and there was adequate space
between tables so as not to give a feeling of being cramped.
By 7:30, Aliano's was mostly full.
water, fresh, warm bread and olive oil were brought promptly to our
table; we snacked on the bread and sipped a generous cocktail as we
perused the menu. What greeted our eyes was a great
cross-section of Italian antipasto (appetizers) favorites, zuppas y
Insalates (soups & salads), Bistecca è Maiele, Pollo, Vitello and
Pesce (beef, pork chicken, veal and fish) and specialty pizzas, as
well as a very impressive selection of Dolci (desserts). It
wasn't overly filled with items but all of them sounded tempting,
making difficult a final choice for dinner.
decided to take a pass on the appetizers, instead opting only for
entrées, selecting the Chicken Marsala (Breast of
chicken sautéed with mushrooms and served with a rich Marsala wine
sauce -- $18) and Veal Saltimbocca (Veal
sautéed and topped with spinach, prosciutto, and mozzarella, served
with a lemon butter white wine sauce -- $22). Rarely
do I see saltimbocca on a menu, and rarer still, it is never
described the same way twice (let alone the way I was taught to make
it) and usually doesn't live up to its capabilities in terms of
flavor; this version's description was as close as I had seen and
the flavor was excellent, the veal fork-tender. Served with a
side of Penne pasta marinara, the Chicken Marsala was hearty and
rich with an earthy sauce. The tasty and ample portions
were more than we could finish and we were too stuffed to even
consider a dessert; I guess that leaves a perfect reason for us to
was good news aplenty to report about our dinner at Aliano's.
I was impressed with many things about the evening: the ambiance,
the wait-staff (our waitress was extremely friendly, always smiling
and accommodating), the food (large portions that were cooked and
plated well) and the prices (except for the pasta and pizza, average
prices ranged from about $22 - $35). I will say that, unless
you are ordering pizza or pasta, do not expect an inexpensive
evening, especially if you plan to imbibe.
I am uncertain as to what specific nights include entertainment (we
visited on a Wednesday and a Karaoke-style singer was providing the
music), my only suggestion might be to relocate the singer to the
bar area where he didn't have to watch everyone eating the excellent
food... Our table was directly in front of his table and the
volume was a tad loud.
Undoubtedly my time in a
California kitchen with a top-notch chef created a severe prejudice
in me; Chef Insalago's Saltimbocca was, without a doubt, the
absolute best version I have ever tasted. It would not
however, be particularly fair to compare Joseph's dish with
that of Aliano's and so I won't. What I will say is that we
were certainly not disappointed with our visit to Aliano's; I am
reasonably certain, too, that even Joseph would have smiled and