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posted: 4/3/2013 6:00 AM

Friendly service, fine fare make up for lack of ambiance

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  • Chef Jerry Navarro runs the kitchen at Navarro's of Naperville, a casual Italian eatery tucked into the clubhouse at Country Lakes Golf Course.

       Chef Jerry Navarro runs the kitchen at Navarro's of Naperville, a casual Italian eatery tucked into the clubhouse at Country Lakes Golf Course.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Caprese tomato, fresh basil and mozzarella is on the menu at Navarro's of Naperville.

       Caprese tomato, fresh basil and mozzarella is on the menu at Navarro's of Naperville.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Rigatoni in vodka sauce is expertly prepared at Navarro's of Naperville, located downstairs at Country Lakes Golf Course.

       Rigatoni in vodka sauce is expertly prepared at Navarro's of Naperville, located downstairs at Country Lakes Golf Course.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Navarro's of Naperville offers homey Italian cuisine and a sporty vibe.

       Navarro's of Naperville offers homey Italian cuisine and a sporty vibe.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Toasted Italian bread topped with fresh plum tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil is a nice way to start a meal at Navarro's of Naperville.

       Toasted Italian bread topped with fresh plum tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil is a nice way to start a meal at Navarro's of Naperville.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Chicken Parmesan at Navarro's of Naperville.

       Chicken Parmesan at Navarro's of Naperville.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Italian sausage with roasted sweet peppers and potatoes at Navarro's of Naperville.

       Italian sausage with roasted sweet peppers and potatoes at Navarro's of Naperville.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
By Jenifer Olvera
Daily Herald Correspondent

Tucked into the lower level, backside of the clubhouse at Country Lakes Golf Course, Jerry Navarro's eponymous Navarro's of Naperville is easily missed. In fact, it has no formal signage (not accurate signage, at least). What's more, the unlikely setting isn't visible from the street.

Once inside, you're met with a cavernous space. In other words, it's not the country club setting you might expect. Once the cheery hostess and ever-present owner start chatting up the room, though, you barely notice the dim, windowless surroundings, limited tables and focal bar. Instead, you feel like you're hanging out in a friend's rec room.

That homey feeling continues given everything is made from scratch -- and takes corresponding time to attest to that fact. Since sports flicker on the flat-screen, there's something above and beyond conversation to pass the time.

The menu is pretty much textbook Italian. There are just three appetizers. We ordered one of them -- classic, garlicky tomato-basil bruschetta on toasted bread -- along with a simple half-order of the grilled vegetable platter with asparagus, mushrooms, eggplant and zucchini. Our other options were cold, cream cheese-based artichoke dip or mussels steeped in spicy red sauce.

Both of our salads were standouts. The house version contains romaine, red onions and black olives, and it's bathed in a bracing balsamic vinaigrette. The Caesar salad was tasty, too, thanks to house-made dressing and crispy, flavor-saturated croutons.

As for entrees, well, they took at least 45 minutes more to arrive (yet we were one of just two occupied tables), When they did, the cheesy, baked chicken Parmesan was satisfying atop lightly sauced angel hair. The rigatoni in vodka sauce was a fine rendition, too, but some additional ingredients -- sausage, perhaps -- lent interest.

Other choices range from chicken Marsala to lightly battered tilapia Francaise, Italian sausage with sweet peppers and potatoes and a one- or-two-pound order of barbecue ribs, a club favorite.

The desserts menu is limited in number but portioned to share, like much of the menu. The bananas foster came gooey and caramelized, though a scoop of ice cream alongside would have really hit the spot. Alternately, there's a mini, house-made cannoli to contend with.

Live music on some nights and affordable drinks poured with a heavy hand keep the vibe light. Navarro's is nothing fancy, but it's heartfelt, and sometimes that's enough.

• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald only publishes reviews of restaurants it can recommend.

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