Chicago Restaurant Week: Carlucci keeps eats reliably good

Carlucci

Carlucci shrimp dish. (Phil Vettel/Chicago Tribune / February 4, 2014)

The first Carlucci opened in 1984 at Halsted Street and Webster Avenue, and for many years it was one of the most popular Italian restaurants in the city. These days, Carlucci is strictly a west suburban operation (1801 Butterfield Road, Downers Grove, 630-512-0990), operating out of a spacious, tastefully ornate location (there is a Carlucci in Rosemont, which has different ownership).

Carlucci may no longer be the darling of the trendy set, but the restaurant remains solid and reliable. And executive chef Jonathan Harootunian is an industry veteran who has been executive chef at Vivere, Meritage and Courtright's.

The restaurant's Chicago Restaurant Week dinner menu (four courses, $33) is a bargain even by restaurant-week standards (most restaurants offering four courses charge $44) and include such signatures as linguine bobonato, in which hot noodles are tossed, tableside, inside a large wheel of Parmesan cheese.

Sauteed shrimp, presented in a cast-iron skillet with toasted ciabatta, leads the list of antipasti (there are four choices in each category), and there also are prosciutto-wrapped nuggets of mozzarella cheese over grilled zucchini and onions.

Harootunian's take on Caesar salad presents whole leaves of grilled romaine with a cheese-rich dressing and a prosciutto bonus.

Pancetta-wrapped pork tenderloin spent a little too much time in the oven, and its flavors were muddy.

Better by far is the eggplant Parmesan, the eggplant thickly sliced and delicious, brightened by an acidic and slightly sweet marinara sauce.

Desserts are all traditional — tiramisu, house-made mini cannoli, panna cotta — and fine, if unremarkable.

Chicago Restaurant Week features more than 300 restaurants offering three-course lunches ($22) and three- and four-course dinners ($33, $44). Chicago Restaurant Week runs through Thursday; for participating restaurants, menus and online reservations, go to choosechicago.com

pvettel@tribune.com

Twitter @philvettel

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