Unfortunately, Nero is remembered as the callous emperor who watched Rome burn from his palace tower, not the enlightened gastronome whose vision was to reinvent the city as a giant brick oven for pizza. Adopt a flavor first outlook with today's Groupon: for $20, you get $40 worth of upscale Italian cuisine and drinks at Via Veneto Ristorante Italiano.
Chef and owner Tony Barbanente masterfully infuses authentic Italian dishes with Chicagos signature gusto. A lunch menu borrowed from Grandmas prized recipe book features such old-country treats as orecchiette carrettiera, a half-shell pasta that shares a ceramic bed with sauteed broccoli, garlic, parmigiano, and cream ($12.95). Navigate a Venetian gondola over waves of marinara sauce with the spaghetti pescatore, a seafood specialty that enlightens taste buds with a symphonic coupling of clams and mussels ($17.95). True to the restaurants family-run tradition, the dinner menu squeezes hunger away like the embrace of an overenthusiastic aunt. A romantic evening in the restaurants brick-walled dining room pairs exquisitely with the homemade potato dumplings of the gnocchi al filo di pomodore ($16.95) or the meaty lasagna di carne ($14.95).
As the dimmed overhead lights illuminate expressions of postmeal satisfaction, diners can order from a menu of authentic Italian desserts that includes such delicacies as grilled peaches served with vanilla ice cream ($6.95). After the plates have been cleared, lift a glass of wine to toast to the grape-strewn fields of southern Italy and the earth's second moon.
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