JOLIET – A good friend of mine loves Barolo’s Ristorante and eats there often.
After a recent visit, I now know why.
I had to be persuaded to go. I was busy. I was tired. But another friend felt I needed some R&R – at Barolo’s, of course. So I went. And I’m glad I did.
First of all, the service is tops. We had reservations and were seated immediately at the table of our choice. Our beverage glasses stayed full all evening. The courses came out at a nice pace, with enough time to allow the last to settle before the next arrived. We never felt rushed.
I began to relax and decided my friend was right.
Which leads me to the atmosphere, which felt as quaint and European as the website said. Even before we ordered, we received a basket of freshly baked crusty bread with a cruet of light olive oil for dipping.
Now for the food.
Barolo’s has a lunch menu, a banquet menu and three menus for dinner that night: the regular menu, an executive menu and the specials. While we made up our minds for dinner, we ordered an antipasto, price unknown as it was one of the specials. The other appetizers on the dinner menu ranged from $9.95 to $12.95.
The antipasto was an array of salamis, fresh and aged cheeses, fresh tomato wedges, and green as well as Kalamata olives. The cheeses included fresh mozzarella, Muenster and two we could not identify.
The plating pleased the eye. The tastes of the different salamis ranged from mild to extra spicy. Some of the cheese was soft and mild; others were hard and aged with a sharp taste.
For dinner, my friend debated between the blackened Hawaiian fish served on a bed of fire-roasted spinach (one of that night’s specials) and the pork tenderloin stuffed with Italian sausage and apples and roasted in a balsamic/honey barbecue for $20.95, which is on the regular menu.
I ordered the 20-ounce porterhouse with the garlic demi sauce for $42 from the executive menu as I had never had a porterhouse and love garlic. The entrées came with salads, herbed-roasted potatoes and the vegetable of the day, which was green beans sauteed with tomatoes or red peppers; the flavor was so mild we weren’t certain which it was.
My friend ordered her salad with Caesar; I had the homemade balsamic vinaigrette. The balsamic vinaigrette was pungent with a sweet hint – so good, I ate most of my salad before I remembered to take a photo.
The Caesar dressing, my friend said, was well-seasoned with a “perfect consistency.” The entrées were outstanding.
I like my steaks seared and mooing, but the garlic demi sauce took the experience to a new level. And my friend said the Italian sausage and apple stuffing added layers of flavor and texture to the tenderloin. Although the tenderloin’s sauce was a honey barbecue, it was not overly sweet; one could differentiate the flavors.
All the desserts on the dinner menu were $7. We ordered two to split and let the flourless chocolate cake get away as three desserts were impossible, even for us.
The first, the Napoleon of Berries and Mousses, consisted of flaky puff pastry, Peruvian dark chocolate mousse, white chocolate mousse and medley of berries, topped with an edible flower. It was almost too pretty to eat. Key word is “almost.” We devoured it.
The second was a chocolate chip mint cheesecake, which was the cheesecake flavor of the day. This, too, came topped with an edible flower. We even admired the plates and told our server so. She said one staff member obtains them and searches for unique ones.
BTW, the cheesecake was smooth and barely sweet; neither chocolate nor mint overshadowed the creamy taste of the cheese.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at The Herald-News. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Barolo Ristorante
WHEN: Lunch is served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner is served 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday is reserved for banquets.
WHERE: 2765 Black Road, Joliet
INFO: Call 815-729-3606 or visit barolofinedining.com.