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The Salad Bar Series: La Villa

By Marilyn Ferdinand

Restaurant: La Villa

Location: 3632 N. Pulaski, just north of Addison

Description: Established in 1972, La Villa is one of Chicago's old-fashioned American-Italian restaurants that just keep going and going. It was a favorite of my father, who was born in 1926, and it was one of our dinner spots before the opera some 25 years ago. Ever-present Italian lights, fake shutters, red vinyl, and red-and-white checked tablecloths mark La Villa as the equivalent an old-man bar.

A salad bar has always been a part of La Villa, and as long as this restaurant ticks on, it likely always will be.

Salad Bar Comes With Meal? Salad bar comes with non-pasta main courses; $3.95 with pasta main course; $7.95 alone. A good value is the Early Bird Special between 2 p.m. and 6 pm, Monday through Friday, all of which come with the salad bar.

Sneeze Guard: Clear plexiglass covers the top and reaches down about 5 inches. Adequate without being intrusive.

Estimated Length: Six feet, two rows of items, shelves to one side contain oil/vinegar cruets, pepper mills, croutons, and faux bacon bits.

Reachability: Back row not well lit and not that easy to reach. I couldn't tell what was in one canister (red onion) until I reached and tipped it forward.

Best Ingredients: An awesome seafood salad of tender calamari rings, shrimp, and diced celery. I liked the marinated mushroom salad and green-olive salad, too.

Unusual Ingredients: A very vinegary, slightly hot eggplant and olive salad, which I didn't like. Decent antipasto meat salad, but I'm a veggie, so I didn't sample. Hot giardenara, not unusual at an Italian restaurant but perhaps not so common at other salad bars.

Dressings: Oil/vinegar, French, Creamy Garlic, House Italian, 1000 Island, Blue Cheese, Balsamic, Ranch (in packets only).

Comment: This isn't a huge salad bar, but it's got all the basics and a good sampling of other salad sides, though its dessert items are quite limited (jello and chocolate pudding). The mixed greens are a nice change from chopped iceberg lettuce, the pasta salads are al dente, and you get mozzarella cubes, not shredded, bland cheddar. If you like salad bars, you could do much worse than this one.


Posted on May 12, 2009

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