Labriola Ristorante and Cafe
Ever wish you could have been in certain rooms when important historical decisions were being made? We do. Some of those instances include the White House Situation Room during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Portland Trailblazers “war room” when they took Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan, or the 2006 meeting where movie executives decided that former N.W.A member Ice Cube was the perfect fit for a family fun movie full of laughs (“Are We Done Yet?” - 3.9 IMDB rating).
Well you can add a new one to the list, because we wish we could have told the people who decided to pour all their money into Labriola Ristorante that it was a bad idea. And our guess is they poured a lot of money into this place, because it’s off of Michigan Avenue and Grand, and it’s massive, which you realize after seeing the large dining room hidden behind what already feels like a big space. If you’re familiar with the Purple Pig, Labriola is similarly situated on the upper part of Grand before it transitions below.
The restaurant is split into the “Cafe” and “Ristorante.” The cafe is a glorified Panera, and it is what it is. If you work in the area, are a tourist, or happen to be doing touristy Michigan Avenue things, then we can maybe see popping in for a quick sandwich or coffee on the cafe side while on the go.
But the Ristorante part would be a waste of your time. Simply put - it’s bad food. Pizza that disappoints, squid ink pasta that needs to be rethought, and poorly executed appetizers all make you shrug your shoulders while saying meh.
We know there’s a successful location in Oak Brook, but it feels like they took a strip mall concept and stuck it into prime Michigan Avenue space. We get it, there’s a tourist population to cater to, but Labriola has a serious dining room meant for full-blown serious dinners. There’s no reason for anyone to pay $25-$30 for entrees or $50 for steaks and chops at a place like this.
If you’re going to spend that kind of money on food, spend it somewhere else.
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Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Panini
It's an OK sandwich. The chicken is a little cafeteria lunch meat-like, but it's grilled well with solid oven roasted tomatos and a pesto mayo.
Baby Escarole Salad
Served with pancetta, shaved pecorino, and a poached egg. The lettuce once came out warm and the bacon is overcooked and over-salted.
Squid Ink Campanelle Pasta
Sounds great on paper, but the execution misses the mark. We like fishy- tasting things, but squid ink pasta shouldn't taste this fishy. The calamari in it is downright chewy too.
Fried artichoke with olives and parsley. The artichokes are terribly bland, and the only flavor that remotely shows is from the olives.
Topped with fennel sausage, tomato, basil, and mozzarella. The pizza crust is good, but the problem is bad cheese. Rarely do we notice bad cheese on a pizza, but this feels like a bunch of Kraft singles were thrown around.