Higher Ground—Il Sogno

December 2015 View more

NMAG1215_TableforTwo_Sogno Interior_800pxYou might get an argument from a caterpillar or an entomologist, but December is simply a great time for cocooning. As the winter chill settles in outside, indoor spaces suddenly teem with crackling fires, flickering candles and twinkling holiday lights, while hot cocoa simmers, blankets abound and puffy, enveloping sofas beckon. It becomes, in other words, a tall task to muster the wherewithal to leave the house.

NMAG1215_TableforTwo_Sogno-015_800pxConversely, however, December also happens to be a time when a multitude of friends and family members come calling in search of quick get-togethers, holiday dinners and annual gatherings. In trying to balance one’s hibernating instincts and social imperatives, then, the goal is to find just the right spot that offers both a casual atmosphere that lends itself well to easy socializing and a cozy environment that feels like a reasonable compromise for having left behind the comforts of home.

Fortunately, if you happen to be at the corner of Front and Hale in downtown Wheaton when this debate arises, the answer is waiting right above you—just one flight up at Il Sogno Ristorante.

A Fetching Nest

NMAG1215_TableforTwo_Sogno-041_800pxOur visit to this second-floor hideaway on an unseasonably chilly weeknight in fall, found us in the middle ground between the warm, carefree summer evenings past, and the bitter winter days to come. Even so, it was easy to see the potential in both extremes, with the dormant rooftop patio promising a wonderful seasonal retreat on the other side of a long winter, and the compact, warmly lit interior a seemingly ideal spot from which to look out the huge arching windows down onto the snowy streets below in the months to come. Inside, the vintage tin ceiling, low lighting and tasteful décor couldn’t have been cozier if your dear old grandmother had knitted it herself.

Speaking of grandma, if her roots are in Italy or regions thereabout, she might appreciate the warmth and comfort that’s coming out of the kitchen as well. Il Sogno is a family operation, and not just as part of a story that makes for good copy on the menu—the love and tradition is apparent in everything from the attentive service to the food on the plate.

Elevated Standards

NMAG1215_TableforTwo_Sogno-126_800pxThe menu at Il Sogno focuses on cuisine from Italy’s southern section, an area with greater access to the Mediterranean Sea and the myriad delicacies therein. Thus the assortment of clams, mussels, octopus and other sea dwellers commandeering a substantial portion of the appetizer slate.

NMAG1215_TableforTwo_Sogno-073_800pxSo, while my companion opted for a more terrestrial meal of rotolo formaggi—a large coil of pasta packed with ricotta, marscapone, carrots and zucchini and slathered in a flavorful vodka sauce—I decided to test the chef’s seaworthiness with a bowl of tagliatelle noodles in a sauce of garlic, olive oil, sweet peas and thyme, and topped with three enormous scallops. We both turned out to be right—by land or by sea, this kitchen was getting the job done. Given the generous portions, there was no good reason to add side orders of garlic spinach and vesuvio potatoes to the table, but this proved to be inspired gluttony. Just to be very clear, do not miss these potatoes.

There was also no good reason to indulge in dessert, but it was hard to pass on a cannoli, here presented as a s’more-like stack rather than a traditional tube, but undeniably delicious and a great way to close out a meal, and an experience, that more than justified venturing out of the cocoon for a few hours.

Il Sogno Ristorante
100 N. Hale St., 2nd Floor


Photos by Greg Shapps