CHICAGO (WLS) --Regular customers in Oak Brook will know immediately, that with a name like Labriola, they're in store for hefty, two-fisted burgers on pretzel rolls and thin, Neapolitan-style pizzas draped with fresh mozzarella. But the Cafe at the new Michigan Avenue location is only half of the equation.
"Our customers love what we do in Oak Brook in a casual setting, so I think they want more, which is more full service," said Rich Labriola.
That means chef-driven dishes with a higher level of skill behind them. But before anything arrives at the table, there is bread service.
"I designed a sourdough bread and a rustic Italian bread, the chef created this great cultured butter he makes from a buttermilk he gets from a farm in Southern Illinois," said Labriola.
As for starters, hard to go wrong with a house-smoked swordfish carpaccio, draped with pickled fennel and blood oranges; from the list of a half-dozen or so pastas - all made in-house - consider thin and delicate sheets of fazzoletti, embedded with pumpkin, hazelnuts and slowly-braised rabbit. Even more impressive, straight from their fancy extruder, campanelle pasta turned jet black with squid ink. Once tender, grilled calamari is cooked with a lemony anchovy butter, the cooked pasta is added, along with peppery arugula and oven-dried tomatoes. The dish is finished with tiny breadcrumbs, which isn't surprising, considering the entire business was built on bread.
"Butter and bread is a great experience as it should be if you walk in the door of something that says Labriola on it," he said.
So this Labriola a little bit different than the one in Oak Brook, in the sense it's really two restaurants under the same roof - a more casual caf doing breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Then in the back, a slightly more upscale restaurant doing lunch and dinner seven days, and if you happen to be walking down Michigan Avenue, a pretty good call.
The restaurant also has a few options for private dining and he says save room for dessert, because the gelato bar is open year-round.
Labriola Restaurant & Cafe
535 N. Michigan Ave.