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Trattoria Totuccio serves up standard Italian fare

TRATTORIA
TOTUCCIO ★½

2155 City Gate Ln., Naperville

(630) 355-4800;
trattoriatotuccio.com

Prices: Appetizers, $6-$15; entrees, $14-$33; dessert, $7.

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. (Friday until 11 p.m.); Saturday, 4:30-10 p.m.

Try: Artichoke Toscana appetizer. The seafood is fresh and can be a good bet, but check out the daily specials.

Tips: Reservations accepted. Full bar service. Sunday: Private parties only. Noisy when busy. The Frank Sinatra playlist is on such a short loop that Ol’ Blue Eyes ends up repeating himself with some frequency.

In a bite: Traditional Italian cuisine is on the menu at Trattoria Totuccio, where diners go for their fix of fried calamari and bruschetta antipasti and a variety of pasta, chicken, veal and seafood dishes.

KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary; ★★★ Excellent;
★★ Very Good;
★ Good; Zero stars: Poor

The Italian menu can cut a broad swath, from fried calamari and bruschetta to veal piccata and linguini with clams.

Diners at Trattoria Totuccio in Naperville will encounter these classics and other time-honored fare such as caprese, chicken marsala and ricotta- and spinach-stuffed cavatelli. In fact, one is unlikely to run into a single unfamiliar dish. Tradition, rather than novelty, characterizes the menu at this nearly two-year-old restaurant, where entrees are generously portioned and sensibly priced from $14 to $33. A bonus: Entrees also include a choice of soup (minestrone the night of our visit) or a house salad, which made us reconsider our initial decision to split the insalata Gorgonzola ($8) featuring mixed greens and Gorgonzola cheese in a blueberry vinaigrette.

For our antipasto, we shared artichoke Toscana: artichoke hearts topped with seasoned bread crumbs that were baked with Parmesan cheese. The dish, which came with light tomato sauce for dipping, was decent. But it could have stood up to more assertive seasoning for added interest. More garlic would have worked wonders.

The same observation applies to the two entrees we tried. A tablemate’s Medaglioni di Manzo, beef tenderloin medallions prepared in a mushroom-Brunello wine sauce, had good texture but the meat itself lacked much in the way of flavor.

Grigliata Mista, the seafood plate, featured a mix of fresh-tasting grilled octopus, shrimp, squid, clams and mussels, paired with a few token potato, zucchini and carrot strips. Though we contributed a few squeezes of lemon, this course needed something extra in the way of seasoning for it to shine. Why is the kitchen so timid with the garlic? Even more problematic was the grit we ran into in several of the mussels.

Among other entrees available were homemade potato gnocchi served in a marinara sauce; pork medallions with a creamy mushroom sauce; zuppa di pesce on a bed of linguini and red sauce, grilled lamb chops with a lemon-oregano sauce; and pumpkin-filled ravioli, a special.

Dessert choices included such standards as cannoli, chocolate lava cake and spumoni ice cream as well as the ubiquitous tiramisu. I still have a soft spot for tiramisu, but this version disappointed. The cake was moist and creamy but devoid of even a hint of coffee flavor.

Thomas Witom is a local free-lance writer.



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