Nestled into a spot next to Bistro Campagna (one of Chicago's best French secrets), ERBA is a welcome addition to the hot-yet still quaint- Lincoln Square neighborhood. Owned by the same people who brought us brioso modern mexican right up the street, this new pasta joint feels both urban and familiar at the same time.
Coming upon the window we noticed a lowly lighted but attractive interior- we could notice the interior because there was NO ONE INSIDE! Well, except for the bartender and a waiter. After checking out the posted menu be decided to venture inside- they did serve a roasted beet salad and I'm batty for beets this time of the year. Greeted warmly , they suggested we might sit outside - where everyone else was- AhHa! The trip to the backyard was a tad like a spy movie or a portion of the underground railroad but was well worth the trek- gleaming aluminum seating and simple plants and lighting make the backyard a must for this time of the year.
The menu is limited- not in types of things to try but number...eight antipasti eight primi and six secondi options should make selecting something a tad easier- but their choices of creative versions of traditional Italian favorites made selections difficult. "Discombobulated lasagna in a bowl" begged a try but I opted to start with ...you guessed it- a beet salad of roasted gold and red beets, arugula, fennel & orange thyme vinagrette an the best part a large slice of tapanade covered focaccia. Tom had a great beginning with marinated green beans with red onion, oven dried tomato and steaming mozarella.
Second courses were even more outstanding- Tom had homemade angolotti- a large triangle pasta (really large- like a triangle of toast) with proscuitto, sage and parmesan frico- a crispy parmasian wafer. I ordered the sea scallops browned in sambucca, spinach, tomato, and "expensive" olive oil and served over polenta- not my favorite. When they presented it, Tom, channeling Larry the Cable guy, actually said "fire that puppy up" it looked so good. It was really good, a tad oily, but very flavorful- the scallops were great and I actually got five large scallops ( I'm all about portions).
The wine selection was good and not expensive- desert was great and even the bread - baked with big crystals of rock salt was enjoyable. All in all a great weeknight experience. They don't take reservations and be sure to head over while you can enjoy sitting outside.
ERBA 4520 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago, IL 60625 773.989.4200