Be Mine

May 2022 View more

By Phil Vettel

Meatball polenta

Clarendon Hills’ tiny downtown has been home to several good restaurants in the past, but most have been short-lived.

Il Mio, which opened in early January, might enjoy a longer stay in town. The restaurant (which translates to “mine”) has a something-for-everyone ethos that should play well with local residents (judging by the packed dining rooms I saw on midweek nights, it’s playing well with them already).

Want to grab a bite while catching the game? Il Mio’s beautiful oval bar, which takes up the center of the dining room, is fitted with multiple TVs. Avoiding gluten? The menu lists 20 dishes that are gluten free, and there are gluten-free options (on request) for the pizzas and pastas. Vegetarian? There are more than a dozen choices. There’s a kids’ menu for the bambini, complete with crayons.

“We want to include everybody,” says Rich Ciota, managing partner.

Ciota isn’t new to this game. He’s been in the industry for the last 30 years, 27 of them as partner/manager at an iconic Chicago steakhouse. Nobody will confuse Il Mio with a steakhouse (there are just two steaks on the menu), but Ciota knows how to keep customers happy.

Taking over a space that has been home to a bistro (Maijean) and a cantina (Frida Kahlo) in the past, Il Mio’s owners transformed the interior with exposed steel rafters (painted bright white) and arched niches for some tables. The look is softened with warm lighting, leather chairs, and hanging ferns that draw the eyes upward. Close to the front windows, which swing open in good weather, are several high-top tables, which prove to be great vantages from which to appreciate the view.

Managing partner Rich Ciota at Il Mio’s airy bar

Larger parties will want to dig into the “sharables,” which include chicken wings with various sauces, hummus with crudites, and a prosciutto plate. Hefty pork-and-beef meatballs on a bed of polenta can be shared by at least three. Fried calamari, with marinara sauce and lemon aïoli, are quite good; even better are the grilled calamari (an occasional special), served as full hoods over an arugula salad with cherry tomatoes.

Pizzas have flavorful thin crusts with a bit of chew; toppings are traditional, though the Burrata and pesto pie is a nice change of pace. Spice lovers will enjoy the diavolo pizza with hot pepperoni and Calabrian chile oil. The signature Il Mio salad is a tasty collection of greens, salami, olives, pimento, and more—call it an antipasto salad or a garbage salad (I’ve seen both terms used by restaurants)—but by all means try it.

Pastas tend to be robust and sizable; these are no primi courses. Ribbons of pappardelle are fortified with braised short rib ragu; orecchiette are tossed with a bold mix of crumbled Italian sausage, rapini, and a generous dusting of Parmigiano cheese.

Entrées include a very good grilled Scottish salmon, which arrives on a bed of creamy risotto with asparagus, grilled squash, and lemon-butter sauce. There’s a brick chicken with roasted potatoes and a classic chicken parmigiana over spaghetti, and the specials card offers chicken Milanese (a breaded cutlet) buried under a blanket of arugula with red onions, cherry tomatoes, and shaved Parmigiano.

Desserts are straightforward classics: tiramisu, cannoli, panna cotta, gelato, and sorbetto—even an Italian riff on s’mores, with pizzelles (Italian waffle cookies) substituting for graham crackers.

Sausage orecchiette

The ambitious beverage program includes signature cocktails (including a nice Italian version of an old fashioned) and alcohol-free drinks, plus a beer list with local brews (Alter Brewing, Buckle Down) on draft. The lengthy wine list includes a number of budget-friendly bottles, along with a few bottles for those celebrating good news or important milestones.

By the time you read this, Il Mio should have launched its Saturday-Sunday brunch service. Several dinner items are also on the brunch menu, along with build-your-own omelets and Italian versions of French toast, Eggs Benedict, and pancakes. Like I said, something for everybody. 

Il Mio 
30 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills

Photos courtesy of Il Mio