Monday, January 17, 2011
After I quit my first job in Chicago (did that even happen?) I got quite engaged in the Yelp.com community. It's a perfect site with which to explore the city and share treasures and foibles of what you ate, saw, smelled and touched along the way. I actually met one of my best friends through the user-driven site. Talk about return on investment. But as my life got busier with school and money shriveled away, I stopped writing. After all, I wasn't part of the community to meet people or pass time or make new friends (though I did). I was there to write.
So, this past weekend, I was awarded what many Yelpers covet: The Review of The Day. What? Right. Your review is put on the front page for all to see. I've received it a few times in the past, but found it ironic it was bestowed upon me when I wrote a half dozen reviews last year. I'm no longer Elite (a category reserved for their most dedicated users; there are perks). I'm just a town person, with shoes in need of cobbling and aging teeth.
But I read it, and it transported me back to the experience. It was a wonderful night that neither I or my in-laws will forget. This I'm certain. And therein lies the twang of regret for letting it go. . . wanting to get back in but thinking it's not the medium for archiving those memories. Knowing it isn't.
Regardless, here it is. Cafe Bionda. Total indulgence.
"Guilt, I banish you. Same as anger, it has little use in our lives and yet its a part of our everyday. I shouldn't, I couldn't, I won't. . . and in the name of that our crazy family opened the door to Cafe Bionda and plunged into cozy comfort. It's interior induces a similar experience to the heft of a down comforter on a dreary day. Warm, dark, incapacitating. Because you will be so full, not just with food but experience too, that moving is a touch slow when you finally. . .FINALLY, leave.
The five of us were situated next to a massive wine rack, tucked away out of the traffic. And believe me, if you're in the main thoroughfare I suspect you might get some restaurant rage. It's jammed on Saturday nights so I recommend earlier than later and not being shy about asking for a table you spot and like. It's close quarters mos def, but if you focus on the food (and you will) the periphery melts away.
We started with a special roasted seafood salad, fried zucchini and fried calamari. I've had calamari up, down and sideways like a long-term relationship and this was top tier ovals. No rubberbands, as so many restaurants are guilty of. Bionda does seafood right as was evidenced by my sister-in-law ordering the grouper and the rest of us lamenting our (totally delicious) choices for the rest of the night. Bitch took those leftovers back to Kalamazoo too. *resentful*
In true family style, we passed and ooh'd and aah'd with each fork full. Rigatoni ala Vodka, Aunt Mimi's Stuffed Shells, Rigatoni Genovese and just straight up Spaghetti and Meatballs. The hot sausage was hippity hoppity hot and delicious. There was heat rising from the dishes and from the conversation ("Mom, we think you might be an alcoholic") but in concert with chianti it was all dim and delightful.
Our waiter (what a) Guy, encouraged us to go tiramisu, but we went cannoli and weren't disappointed. It's just such a damn rarity that food is solid throughout the entire episode. The endings of movies and books and long-running TV series (we just finished "The Wire") can be disappointing but Bionda did it up with fireworks.
We left without guilt. I mean you simply can't feel anything but bliss when you emerge from this place. That feeling cancels out calories. It's scientifically proven, I swear. And if you must, walk your fine self back up to Roosevelt to get on the Green, Red or Orange and call it good. Good and guilt free."