While Flour + Wine in Glen Ellyn only took over The Grotto's former space May 9, the spot has already won a huge following and operates with a smoothness not found in many well-established spots. A strong menu and laid-back atmosphere make it a perfect place for a night out.
Motif: The mellow décor features paper-shaded and orange glass lamps dangling over a mix of booths and tall wooden tables, which are topped by glass oil lamps. Large windows look out on the downtown area. A brick wall separates the dining room from the bar area, which features a large TV tuned to sports. Walls are lined with eclectic art, like framed metal flowers and wine bottles.
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Flour + Wine433 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn, (630) 793-9955; flourandwine.net
Hours: 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to midnight Friday; 3 p.m. to midnight Saturday; 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday
Crowd: Flour + Wine doesn't take reservations and regularly draws a line out the door, with couples and small groups coming for dinner and drinks. The restaurant is accommodating to families, offering a kids menu and Where's Waldo books to keep them busy during the wait. Dress is casual, so you'll spot guys in shorts and sandals alongside women in nice dresses.
Service: Our server was friendly, attentive and showed a great knowledge of the menu. We thought all of her recommendations were spot-on.
Food: Flour + Wine emphasizes fresh food made with organic ingredients, offering a menu that will change seasonally. The first part of its name comes from the fact that the restaurant uses flour imported from Italy. The chefs took special training to make their signature Neapolitan pizza. It's excellent, with a crust we found softer and chewier than typical wood-fired pies. We tried the wild mushroom pizza, which is covered in potent roasted garlic and a delicious blend of mozzarella and ricotta cheese.
The bruschetta is understandably one of their top sellers, and Flour + Wine serves a complex version of the dish that features crispy bread topped with a layer of fresh melted mozzarella, red and gold sliced grape tomatoes, big pieces of basil and flakes of parmesan cheese drizzled with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette. Carnivores will love the beef medallions -- tender, cooked-to-order pieces of steak served with sliced fingerling potatoes and crisp Broccolini.
If you have a sweet tooth, order the Nutella calzone, a massive and steaming hot baked pastry stuffed with the gooey hazelnut spread and bananas and topped with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar. Try it with a scoop of vanilla gelato or, for something really different, the balsamic gelato that genuinely tastes like its namesake.
Liquid consumption: Not surprisingly, wine is the focus of Flour + Wine's drink menu, with a list of more than 40 options from around the world. If you're undecided, they'll offer tastes of whatever you want. Prices are reasonable, with glasses topping out at $12 and a solid pinot noir available for $5.
The bar also has an impressive draft list, written on a chalkboard in the bar, which features Bell's Oberon and Two Brothers' Ebel's Weiss and Cane and Ebel. A cocktail menu is in the works.
Parking: There's plenty of free parking a few blocks away in the downtown Glen Ellyn lot.
Overall: Flour + Wine offers a dining experience that would be notable even in Chicago, with an atmosphere that makes it a place you can regularly enjoy.