by Hannah Geise
Quick, delicious, and authentic Italian cuisine is what you’ll find at Francesca’s al Lago. Think beyond spaghetti and meatballs. In fact, this traditional dish doesn’t even grace the menu.
Francesca’s al Lago, the first restaurant of the Mia Francesca restaurant chain to open outside of the Illinois base, features a unique, handwritten menu that changes about every two weeks. Pizzas, pasta, and an array of appetizers appear on the lunch menu, as well as artisan sandwiches and salads. The interior of the restaurant has a rustic, earthy feel typical of trattorias in Italy, with dark-wooded tables, tan walls, and a spectacular ceiling.
Upon entering, a large bar area is welcoming, with seating to the right. The walls are covered in black and white photographs of various scenes. Hot and fresh homemade bread and herb-infused olive oil are available while you peruse the menu.
I ordered the Panino con pollo e pancetta, a sandwich option that includes grilled chicken with avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, and sweet relish on a ciabatta roll. I enjoyed a delicious side of truffle fries, distinct because they are fried in truffle oil rather than traditional canola oil. These were delicious, although they had a strange aftertaste.
The service began as somewhat mediocre, but improved throughout our meal. We waited at the front counter for a few minutes before anyone noticed that we were there, even though the restaurant was relatively empty. Our waitress was pleasant and frequently filled our waters. We received a wave and a “thank you” from what seemed to be the manager on the way out.
The price of the meal altogether for two dishes was $20, relatively inexpensive for the quality of the food. Overall, I would recommend Francesca’s al Lago. In order to experience the true atmosphere of an authentic Italian trattoria, I would suggest visiting during prime lunch or dinner hours.
Francesca’s al Lago is located on 111 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. The hours of operation are Monday-Sunday, 11:00 am to 3:00 pm for lunch, and Sunday-Thursday, 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm, and Friday & Saturday, 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm for dinner. For more information, call 608-255-6000.