Pasta and pizza lovers will be in their element at Aliano's Ristorante in downtown Batavia, one of the newer independent Italian restaurants to open in the Western suburbs.
Making food to order in authentic Italian style sets Aliano's apart, according to Mario Aliano, who employs three chefs from Naples. "It's what you would get at my mom's house on Sunday night," he said.
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Aliano's Ristorante90 N. Island Ave., Batavia, (630) 406-9400
Setting: Old World Italian
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Entrees: $11 to $36
Décor in the spacious dining room connotes the feeling of an Old World Italian villa, with its hand-painted murals of stone walls, grapevines, wine barrels and a vaulted ceiling festooned with cherubs. Comfortable dark wood chairs and white tablecloths covered with butcher paper encourage diners to relax and escape from their normal routines.
You can start dinner off with a little vino, and at least 45 options are available by the glass. Bottles of nonreserve wines are moderately priced from $24 to $35 and represent mostly American and Italian wineries. Martinis and other specialty cocktails and a small beer list also are featured.
More than a dozen antipasti tempted our taste buds, ranging from fried calamari with cocktail sauce and caprese salad of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil to toasted ravioli and shrimp de jonghe. I chose the seasonal fish medley, which on this particular day included miniature clams, mussels, sautéed calamari and two jumbo shrimp.
The light broth was well-flavored, but cried out for some crusty bread for sopping up every drop. Our server brought it when we asked.
Because Aliano's is especially proud of its pasta and pizza, we ordered one of each, finding it challenging to narrow our choices. We settled on tortellini alla prosciutto, featuring ricotta and Parmesan-filled tortellini tossed with mushrooms, peas, onions and prosciutto bits in a light Alfredo sauce. The portion was huge, and the flavor combination was satisfying, although we found the peas to be overcooked.
Other sauces can be substituted in any of the menu pairings, though I usually go with the chef's suggestions. Choices are vodka sauce, roasted red pepper, marinara, Alfredo, arrabiata, pesto or garlic and olive oil.
Soup or salad is served with all pasta. We decided on salad -- romaine and iceberg lettuce with a little cucumber, grated carrot and red cabbage -- nothing special. Next time we'd try the minestrone or the soup of the day.
Pizza comes in five sizes, ranging from 10-inch to 18-inch, and four crust choices: thin, New York style, Chicago style deep dish and stuffed. The menu lists five toppings combinations and a create-your-own option.
We tried Luigi's Favorite, the first one listed, with Italian sausage, Italian beef, sweet green peppers and giardiniera with New York style crust. Although I ordered the 10-inch, our server brought the 12-inch, which was fine because there was plenty left to take home.
The New York style crust is similar to traditional thin crust, but a little fluffier in the center. It was crisp from the wood-burning oven, and a generous amount of cheese, an imported blend, covered the ingredients. I hadn't expected as much heat from the giardiniera as there was so proceed with caution if you've got a more timid tongue.
Other chef's suggestions are Romano with homemade Italian sausage, onion and green pepper; Brooklyn style with sausage, pepperoni, salami, mortadella and capicola; Chef Rosario with plum tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, spices and mozzarella; Charlie's Famous Blanco with garlic, ricotta, tomatoes and olive oil; and Veggie Pizza with mushrooms, spinach, roasted red peppers and black olives.
The dinner menu includes extensive entree offerings in the categories of chicken, veal, fish and steak, all of which are cut and portioned in-house, Aliano said. In addition to the regular menu, Aliano's runs six or seven specials nightly.
Two of the desserts are made in-house: tiramisu and cannoli. The large tiramisu portion for one could have been shared by four people and was a luscious, creamy version of this classic dessert of rum and espresso-drenched sponge cake with mascarpone cream, ladyfingers and a dusting of cocoa powder.
Live musical entertainment takes place Wednesday through Sunday night. Aliano's welcomes private party bookings of all kinds.
Overall, I enjoyed the generous portions, fair prices and comforting food. Aliano's is a pleasant restaurant for classic Italian dishes and suitable for everyone from couples to families and large groups. Buon appetito!