When I heard that yet another Italian restaurant would be opening up only a block away from the beloved Lucca’s Pizzeria and Ristorante, it was needless to say that I was a little skeptical. On top of that, its location is in the same spot as the well-liked La Buona Vita Restaurant; therefore, I assumed it wouldn’t be able to measure up. However my experience at this restaurant exceeded my expectations, and I believe Lucca’s has some serious competition.
Stepping into Pazzo Bene on a freezing winter night, I was greeted by the warmth and delicious seafood smells wafting from the kitchen. The yellowish lights cast a cozy ambience over the restaurant, and the atmosphere was cheerful and filled with guests’ laughter. Black table clothes were draped over the tables with cloth napkins set at each chair creating an allure of elegance. The restaurant appeared to be filled with guests (at 25% capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions) sitting at various hightop and low top tables. This new Italian restaurant has recently allowed guests to dine in, though it officially opened on Jan. 19 for take out orders only.
After studying the one-page menu, I ordered the Ciabatta Margherita ($16) and the Pasta alla Vodka ($16). It was not long before both dishes arrived at our table. The Ciabatta Margherita was by far my favorite of the two. The presentation of this dish was impeccable with a symmetrical piece of bread dripping with melted cheese and dusted with snow-like parmesan. The springy soft Ciabatta bread was delicious and the complete opposite of the dry crust of most pizzas. The blend of Italian cheeses on top of the bread added a zing of flavor to the dish. This flatbread also offered a perfect ratio of cheese to bread to sauce. I ate every bite of this meal and the large portion size ensured that my appetite was satisfied.
When trying the Pasta alla Vodka, I expected to taste the sweet tomatoes in the sauce, but upon taking a bite, I found the sauce was quite bland. Pasta being one of my favorite foods has led me to try many vodka sauces in my life, and this one seemed oversalted, causing it to completely overpower its flavor. The noodles, however, were soft and chewy, an indication that they were cooked the perfect amount of time. Fresh herbs sprinkled on top of this dish made it taste fresh and attempted to make up for the lack of flavor in the sauce.
Also included on the Pazzo Bene menu is a variety of large plates—for example Salmon Florentina and Pazzo Bene Vitello, along with salads and vegetable sides that can be added to any meal.
The name Pazzo Bene means “crazy good” general manager Andrew Nelson said. I believe for the most part, that is true. This restaurant offers great service with hostesses, waiters and kitchen staff working together to make your experience at Pazzo Bene wonderful. Before and after I received my food, multiple staff members made sure my order was correct. I also felt safe in this restaurant; servers were wearing their masks and the restaurant appeared to be following COVID guidelines.
Overall what won me over was the service and ambience that reminded me why I love dining at restaurants. Although the prices are a bit high, my dishes (each $16) were reasonably priced considering the portions. I was content with this restaurant, and I would recommend it to others for dining in.
Pazzo Bene is located at 15 Calendar Ave., LaGrange. They are open Wednesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. It is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Indoor dining is available in addition to takeout.
Pazzo Bene Restaurant: 4/5 paws