The relatively new Wicker Park eatery Mondo Meatball ( 1467 N. Milwaukee Ave.; MondoMeatball.com ) is a deceptive place.
However, in this case, that's a good thing. The deception lies in the menu: For an eatery that revolves the humble meatball, there are enough different preparations and combinations to make a patron's head spin.
The process is pretty straightforward: Pick a style, a meatball and a sauce. However, there are six styles ( including mini-Mondos, which are three meatball sliders; the Big Salad; and the simple bowl, with four meatballs and bread ). Add to that six types of meatball ( such as spicy pork and, yes, a gluten-free/vegan version ) and 10 sauces ( like BBQ, tzaziki and dijonnaise ), and you can see how one may take a minute to decide what to get.
My dining partner, after some moments of indecision, got the Big Bowl with gemilli pasta, with Chick'n Bacon meatballs and pesto saucesand absolutely loved her selection. ( I had to agree that it was pretty good. ) I tried the mini-Mondo sampler ( with classic beef, spicy pork and turkey ), and definitely liked what I had. My only problem was that the meat was tepid instead of hot.
However, there were no complaints about the risotto, a side that was the highlight of the meal for me. I also really liked the sweet-potato peels, flavored with sumac and kosher salt. Also, don't forget the Black Dog gelato for desserta top-of-the-line brand.
In addition, the 65-seat cafe-style environment features a full bar ( and almost 90 varieties of wine ), a patio, music and entertainmentand, thankfully, reasonable prices. Check out Mondo.
Caffe Rom ( three Loop locations; CaffeRom.com ) advertises itself as the "modern Italian coffee bar"and it's easy to see why.
Visiting the 180 N. Stetson St. location ( in the Aon building ), I witnessed beaming smiles ( from patrons and staffa seeming rarity in the big city ).
As for Caffe Rom's offerings, it's uniformly good. While I don't drink coffee ( which I guess is another rarity in the big city ), I was impressed with the variety Caffe Rom offers. Of course, you have your capuccino and espresso, but there are also everything else from caffe mocha to Portofino ( sweet condensed milk and espresso ) to Nocciola ( with Nutella, sweet condensed milk, espresso and whipped cream ). For those not interested in coffee, there are also teas ( quite good ) and Frullati ( in flavors such as banana, mocha and wild berry ).
The food is just as enticing. If you have a sweet tooth, you'll definitely be satisfied here: Tasty muffins and pastries await. The lunch menu offers a variety of salads ( apple walnut, pasta, Greek, etc. ) as well as sizeable sandwiches. ( I'm returning for the Pollo, the eatery's handmade chicken salad on a large, flaky croissant. )
From its food to its service, Caffe Rom is an oasis.