BALENA Italian Rest. – 1633 N Halsted St, (between North Ave & Concord Pl), Chicago, IL 60614, (312) 867-3888, balenachicago.com/
Q-Tips say: Much ado about very little – OVER-PRICED, OVER RATED. & LOUD. The wine list is extensive but way overpriced. The least expensive bottle of wine starts around $40. The Q’s don’t mind spending money on a bottle of wine, but you can get a good bottle of wine at a restaurant for around $20 to $30. We had to wait longer than usual for our Cocktails & at that time, they were not that busy yet. The Q’s and their friends shared appetizers: Q’s had the Lamb Liver Bruschetta – Chopped Lamb Liver, Radish, Chives, Potato Bread $12 and our friends chose: Spring Pea Bruschetta – Green Garlic, Ricotta, Pea Shoots $14. They were ok. Mr. Q did not like the entree he shared with the other gentleman which was the Spicy Pepperoni, Mozzarella, Tomato $17. The pizza had a slightly burned crust and it was overcooked to the point they could hardly cut it with a steak knife. Mrs. Q liked her Whole Grilled Rushing Waters Trout, Rhubarb, Grapefruit, Capers but thought is was a tad overpriced at $26.00. Our friend, she had the Rigatoni, Pork Ragu, Porcini Mushrooms $16 – which was too salty. The two couples ordered dessert – our friends: Vanilla Gelato, Espresso, Cinnamon Sugar Donuts $10 and the Q’s ordered: Burnt Orange, Pistachio Nougat $9.00 and two cappuccinos, a lattes. Mrs. Q’s note: She did notice on the way out from Balena that many patrons were sharing pizza and having A drink instead of ordering full meals, etc. Perhaps that is one way to lower your cost should you decide to eat there – providing you enjoy the food or you are looking for pre-theater dining.
Mrs. Q says: Kudos to the Manager: When the Manager De Jour came by and asked, “How is everything?” Mr. Q expressed his disappointment with the pizza. She told the chef and offered to have another one made to take home. Mr. Q declined. The Q’s have had pizza in Italy and this pizza does not in any way compare to what they serve in Italy. The Manager also gave us an extra dessert compliments of the chef & we were not charged for the pizza.
Balena was the former Landmark Restaurant in the same location and same chef – they should have stayed with the tried and true. The Q’s will not go back to Balena because there are too many good Restaurants in the Chicago Area to enjoy. However, Balena has somewhat of a captured audience since they are located across the street from Steppenwolf Theater and it is convenient, especially in the winter.
PS. Do you know what Spruce Tips are? Yes, actual little branches from the Spruce Tree & yes, they are on the menu.
Mrs.Q says: Ciao, Ciao, Balena.