There is a restaurant not far away, quite well known for breakfast, that states on the menu something to the effect of "when dining with children, please order for them immediately". I have eaten there one time and I broke all the rules, did not order for my children immediately, and was scolded by the waiter.
This very common child dining concept has never worked for us. You sit down, flip open the menu to the children's section, quickly choose something from the limited and predictable options, close the menu and order for the children. You entertain them for the few precious minutes it takes to warm up some frozen chicken parts and then sit back and enjoy your time while they devour their meal. And then they are ready to go, because they are finished. I can't blame them; unless I am left with a lovely Pinot Noir and the company of wonderful friends, I am ready to leave once I've finished eating.
Friday night the Taste Buds had dinner at La Bocca Della Verita in Lincoln Square. At six o'clock the place was almost empty and we were seated immediately. And just as quickly a server appeared and asked if we would like to order for the children. We declined and flipped open our menus. We ordered drinks. She asked again if we would like to order for the children. Clearly and kindly I told her that we would all be ordering our food at the same time and that we needed a few more minutes.
Baskets of homemade foccacia arrived, which Noah found "tasty" and Kate described as "sweet, and a very fluffy". They cheerfully refilled our bread basket several times, which matters when you have four hungry children and parents who like to read the menu. We ordered calamari fritti, bruschetta and a caprese salad (although many other things looked wonderful, there are concessions made when eating with children). Kate found the calamari "chewy, but great" and while both girls delighted in eating the calamari that resembled baby squid, Noah passed and admitted that he did not really like calamari. The bruschetta and caprese were both standard, tomatoes being an easy sell to every one of them, including Noah's younger sister Eliana who loves tomatoes.
The menu is extensive and includes pasta, main courses, and pizza. Originally our server told us that half pasta orders were available only with rigatoni and spaghetti, with either marina or bolognese sauce. Kate had her heart set on pasta puttanesca and they were happy to give her a half order which was the perfect size. She cleaned the bowl and successfully, but not gracefully, spit out the olive pits. For a girl who has loved capers for years, she made the perfect selection. Noah ordered pizza to share with his mom, the quatro formaggi, which was delicious once it appeared. For reasons not explained, it arrived at the table at least 10 minutes after all other entrees, but was quickly devoured by a hungry Taste Bud. We also had the patate e rosamarino pizza that Mary described as both "crunchy and chewy" (crust and topping). She enjoyed the "strong" flavor but thought that with roasted garlic it might be too pungent for some young palettes. An asparagus salad, tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, was shared because asparagus is fun to eat, being a curiously acceptable finger food (napkins for oily fingers at the ready). The insalata di pera was wonderful, although many of the pears were sacrificed to small fingers. Pollo alla Romana and mushroom ravioli, a daily special tossed with truffle oil, rounded out our table of food.
The only real complaint at La Bocca Della Verita was the service. The very late arriving pizza, with no explanation, was bothersome. We frequently had empty water glasses but Mary points out, "she was very busy and could not help but run". On a busy Saturday night, Maifest in Lincoln Square, it did seem that one server was managing an entire room. More problematic, the very long wait at the end of the meal for the check. As we now know, once we are finished eating, we like to leave.
The total bill for eight of us was just over $200, which included a nice bottle of wine. We passed on dessert, although there were several really wonderful sounding choices, en lieu of a walk up Lincoln to Paciugo for gelato. What a lovely night.La Bocca Della Verita 4618 N. Lincoln Avenue Chicago, IL 60625 www.laboccachicago.com