Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar Review – A Lakeview Restaurant Where Family and Friends Gather

Approaching Frasca


Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar is an inviting neighborhood restaurant at the corner of Roscoe, Lincoln and Paulina Avenues in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Originating in the Friuli region of Italy, a frasca (a wreath of branches) hanging over a farmhouse door signifies the sale of food and wine within and has come to symbolize a pleasant gathering place for family and friends. That is just what you will find. When we entered, the restaurant was empty except for two mothers and their children enjoying the night’s special. Within minutes, the restaurant filled with couples and friends, many coming directly from the Brown Line train which stops just steps from the restaurant. It stayed comfortably full during the 3 hours we were there. We relaxed with good food, good service and a sound level that invited conversation. A former bar and a liquor store were combined to create this large space divided by a U-shaped bar with hanging glasses but no wall, giving a sense of openness. A glass-walled wine-closet glowed across the room. The effect was cozy and comforting on the cold night. On hot summer days, the large wood-framed windows open to the streetscape of the Lakeview neighborhood.

One of the wonderful pizzas available


Frasca serves traditional and contemporary Italian dishes, artisan pizzas and wines ranging from Italy and France to the Americas and New Zealand. There are 90 wine choices, as well as 8 whites and 5 reds by the generous glass. Flights of three different wines from one country are also available. A very unusual attraction is the Monday night special - any bottle of wine is half off. General manager John Boudouvas says this is a great chance to try wines that you think are too expensive or to learn about a wine you have never tried before.

Appetizers include fonduta, calamari, 8 bruschettas, cheeses, cured meats and more. We shared a bruschetta with fresh mozzarella, melt-in-the mouth roasted red pepper, and a chiffonade of basil; paper-thin slices of bresaola, salt-cured, air-dried beef; and Cabra al Vino goat cheese. A little pot of homemade fig jam set off the saltiness of the cheese just as Elie, our relaxed, friendly server, said it would. The heavy, creamy bistro china was a simple foil for the colorful appetizers.

Looking at the restaurant through the bar


Boudouvas, formerly of Francesca on Bryn Mawr, joined Executive Chef Javier Gomez (formerly of Caliterra Bar and Grille, Carlucci Downer’s Grove, and Quartino) and the Frasca group in June 2007 and the menu expanded to include pastas and entrees. For us, the pizzas delivered to other tables looked too good to be passed over. There are 9 kinds of pizza, many with deeply-flavored roasted vegetables. You can also build your own from an extensive list of toppings, including the delicious home roasted tomatoes and peppers. We built a pizza of roasted veggies and took a chance on adding shrimp; they were perfectly tender. Made in a woodburning oven visible from the dining areas, the pizzas have a wonderfully puffy, chewy thin crust with just the right crispness. Unlike some other artisan pizzas, Frasca’s pizzas are cooked through, including the very center.  I’m coming back to take advantage of Wednesday’s special - buy one great pizza, get another one free.

Salads vary with the season - we chose a winter caprese made with roasted tomatoes, though the arugula, gorgonzola and apple salad was also interesting.  Sides include Carciofi Alla Romana, roasted artichokes with mint, chili flakes and red onions, and Le Patate Di Campagna, country-style potatoes with garlic, rosemary and truffle oil.

An unusual dessert


Elie, the perfect server, read our minds and brought a most intriguing dessert - a plate of tiny doughnuts with honey and cinnamon and a small bowl of homemade vanilla gelato. The chewiness that works so well in a crust makes these doughnuts made from Frasca’s pizza dough a little heavy, but the tastes of honey, cinnamon, and vanilla were a lovely blend. We devoured everything.

Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar is at 3358 N. Paulina Street in Chicago. We had no trouble parking on Lincoln Avenue and saw available spaces on side streets. Reservations at phone: 773 248 5222: fax:  773 248 5111.
www.frascapizzeria.com

Photos:  Gloria Henllan-Jones

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