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Article updated: 3/20/2013 6:23 AM

Oak Brook's Ravioli Oli best of fresh and fast

By Susan Stark

Made fresh, served fast. That's the motto at the year-old Ravioli Oli in Oak Brook.

Pithy as that is, it doesn't begin to tell it's fresh story. And lumping it into the fast-casual genre doesn't do it justice.

Yes, you walk up the aisle to the counter to order off a laminated menu or off the boards on the wall. And yes, the prices are reasonable, in fact, extremely so. It's the food that puts Raviolo Oli in a class by itself.

The friendly staff will greet you at the counter and ask if it's your first visit. If yes, they'll give you a brief rundown of the setup. Staff also delivers your meal to your table.

Ravioli fillings are listed along side suggested sauce pairings. Fresh ingredients are key here, but the true star is the fresh pasta made daily with a treasured family recipe. It's tender, cooked until it turns translucent along it's edges and it's light, light, light. Stop by during the day and you can see how they make it.

To start, we chose the bruschetta, a generous portion of chopped fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella, herbs and a balsamic reduction on toasted slices of Italian bread. This appetizer is meant to be shared or could easily be a meal for one.

On this day, the soup of the day, chicken tortellini, proved a solid chicken stock with vegetables and smooth, not-too-salty finish. You know the pasta is fresh when the tortellini break apart in the soup, but it was tasty for all that.

We shared a house salad, a generous portion of mixed spring greens, sliced red onion, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and a balsamic vinaigrette.

The ravioli being the main attraction, my dining companion decided to go with what's called the duet. An entree consists of six ravioli, sauce and is served with Italian bread. In ordering the duet, you can mix fillings and sauces to your heart's content.

My friend ordered three raviolis stuffed with marinated artichoke hearts with fresh spinach, ricotta and Romano cheese and drizzled with a thyme-infused brown butter sauce; sauteed pine nuts provided textural contrast and made for a delicious dish. Equally delicious was the savory harvest chicken filled pasta topped with pesto.

I tried the ravioli of the month, Shrimp fra Diavolo. Shrimp cooked in garlic butter with touch of red chili flakes give the palate a light and slightly spicy kick. These come in a lovely, tomato vodka sauce. I also chose three ravioli filled with Portobello mushrooms and served with Alfredo sauce. Light, earthy, billowy pillows. The kitchen keeps a restrained hand on the Alfredo, producing a light, creamy sauce, instead of the cheese fondue that passes for Alfredo sauce at some restaurants. This is a stellar combination. And really, three here is plenty. While the sauce is on the light side, it's steep on the richness scale and oh, so delizioso.

From this lineup you might think this isn't the place for meat lovers. Not so. Ravioli Oli offers sides of meatballs and Italian sausages as a ravioli filled with ground beef, pork, spinach and cheese seasoned with fresh herbs and spices.

A modest house Chianti, a bargain at $4 per glass, was a lovely smoky accompaniment. Bottled beers, soft drinks and waters also are available

I have a soft spot for gelato and I was thrilled with Ravioli Oli's flavor of the week: salted caramel. I chose feathery streaks of chocolate sauce to top it off. Subtle, creamy with the slightly burned sugar depth of the most delicate caramels.

While I believe the homemade and diverse choices of ravioli to be the stars here, sandwiches and an entree salad that passed by our table on the way to other diners made our heads turn, prompting a discussion of what we'd order on our next visit.

Check raviolioli.com for special events, including a class in ravioli making.

Ÿ Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.

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