Friday, April 19, 2013

Mia Francesca Trattoria

In an inbox full of press releases and bad PR was an email from Justin Harkey, new in town upon becoming the general manager of Mia Francesa's in North Hills. In his message I learned that he enjoyed reading the blog and wanted to chat about the culinary scene in the city.

Despite having no formal qualifications to provide any insight, I scheduled to meet Justin at Mia Francesca. We discussed how Mia Francesca is apparently a really big deal in Chicago, with over 20 locations in Illinois. The Italian restaurant decided to expand their empire to the corner of North Hill's Renaissance hotel. And while they enjoyed some success, Justin believed the restaurant still had the potential to be more. Searching for ideas, Justin turned to me and offered a penny, or a couple meals, for my thoughts.

Italian places that don't offer some kind of complimentary bread make me angry. All that sauce and nothing to soak it with? Actually, any nicer restaurant that doesn't offer some kind of complimentary bite upsets me. Fortunately, Mia Francesca serves up a warm crusty loaf of bread with olive oil mixed with herbs and spices.

Beef carpaccio is the kind of dishes that Mia Francesca prides itself on as authentic, rustic Italian. The slices of beef were smashed down to paper thin and topped with great citrus greens. I did find it weird that the beef stuck badly to the cold plate, forcing us to scrape the meat off the chilled dish.

Cutting Board

Charcuterie is the new bacon. Everyone wants to make artisan cured meats, slice them thinly, and serve them alongside fancy cheese.

Named after the surface it's served on, the cutting board's best feature has nothing to do with meat or cheese. The fig jam is actually the star of the cutting board.

Pollo Arrosto alla Romano

I audibly awed the first time an entrée from Mia Francesca graced my side of the table. Mia Francesca does not skimp on the food. Nearly every dinner there means a plate (and stomach) overflowing with food.

While much of the menu constantly rotates at Mia Francesca, one of the mainstays is the pollo arrosto alla romano, otherwise known as roasted chicken. Although the skin of the chicken doesn't crunch, the meat does stay moist and juicy. The gravy gets heavy and oily when trying to finish the whole plate in one sitting, so it's best to take some home.


I don't think I've encountered a gnocchi that I didn't like. And while these pillows of potato goodness aren't the magic that I've had at a place like Frazier's, they still delighted both the palate and the stomach. Served with a tomato sauce, I'd make sure to save some table bread for ample sauce soaking.

Shrimp Risotto

Piled as high as a mountain and the pinnacle of creaminess, the shrimp risotto reinforces Mia Francesca mission of stuffing diners' faces with rich food. Sara loved her dish, but as much as she did enjoy the large shrimp, she was hoping for more of them.

Cozze Vino Blanco w/ Quinoa Pasta

Italian places represented a kind of hell for our dear friend Maggie. Suffering from gluten sensitivity, she avoids places that pride themselves on pasta and sauces. But alas, Mia Francesca justifiably boasts one of the better gluten-free Italian menus, as the quinoa pasta has the texture and flavor of traditional wheat-based pasta.


Recently Mia Francesca picked up illy coffee, which is apparently the Elvis of coffee. Not being a hardcore coffee drinker I didn't taste the hype, but it was a good cup of coffee.


Maybe it was our expanded stomachs, but one of the more disappointing dishes of the night went to the profiteroles, cream puffs filled with pistachio gelato and covered in chocolate sauce. Sounds like a winner, right? Well, when the gelato doesn't taste like anything, and the pastry tastes a bit stale, a dessert doesn't hit its mark.

Banana Fosters Bread Pudding

A much better dessert was the banana fosters bread pudding. The pudding comes out warm, crevices oozing with the white chocolate gelato.

Chocolate Mouse Bombe

A dessert that didn't quite fit the description on the menu was the chocolate mouse bombe. Imagining the dessert would come out much different, Sara and Maggie were surprised to see two domed desserts placed in front of them. And while the flavors were okay, it still wasn't the dish they were expecting.

After dining a few times at his restaurant, I emailed Justin with my observations. A lot of praise, especially towards the service and food. I offered some criticisms, like the Canes game not being shown at the bar, and the awkward menu layout. And while he took some of my suggestions to heart, I think he has realized that I'm just a chubby guy with a camera.

Mia Francesca Trattoria on Urbanspoon


Jennifer B. said...

Mmmm! And, I love charcuterie!

Jennifer B. said...

Mmmm! And, I love charcuterie!