Cari Taylor-Carlson
Dining

La Scala Is Authentic But Uneven

Despite glitches, you can eat pretty well, and the Tiramisu dessert is perfection.

By - Jul 11th, 2018 04:04 pm
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Cafe La Scala. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson

Cafe La Scala. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Tucked inside the Italian Community Center is a restaurant where $8.95-$11.95 buys a meal of Sciortino’s bread, olive oil for dipping, and your choice of Salmon Olivada, Chicken Piccata, Chicken Marsala, or Sicilian Steak. You have to come at lunch time for these bargain entrees, but you don’t have to be a member of the Center, an oft- assumed misconception. Nor are you limited to those four choices.

I ate at La Scala often a very long time ago, and I’m pleased to report that after some shaky years, Bartolotta’s took over and now the food is authentically Italian, not a rave, but consistently decent.

The Chicken Piccata ($8.95,) a small cutlet served in a tart lemon sauce with capers, came on an extra generous bed of sautéed spinach and chunks of potato coated with olive oil. The menu read “Mashed,” instead I got chunks. Since we waited 45 minutes for our meal, we wondered if someone forgot to boil the potatoes or perhaps, didn’t have the time to mash them. Whatever went amiss, they were fine, just not as advertised.

Those four special lunch entrees came with a choice of soup or salad. La Scala’s Famous Chicken Pastini Soup, as its termed, was unfortunately served barely lukewarm, but had good flavor and enough carrots, celery, and pasta to give it body. It needed more time on the stove to live up to “Famous.”

One of my companions ordered the Italian Sausage Sandwich because, she said, “Everyone occasionally needs a big gloppy sandwich.” The grilled sausage served in a soft Sciortino’s bun was sauced with marinara and smothered with peppers and onions that oozed out of both ends, a four-napkin sandwich. The accompanying chips, house made of course, were thick enough to taste more like actual potato and less like salt, as is often the case with chips. Other sandwiches on the menu include Grilled Chicken, Sicilian Steak, and a Café burger.

The Ortolano Vegetable Pizza, attractive with its coat of fresh basil, had more than enough veggies, especially mushrooms. Along with red onion they dominated this 10” pizza. There’s a “Make Your Own” option with multiple choices of cheese, veggies, meat, seafood, or you can go with a Margherita, a Spicy Pepperoni, an Italian Sausage, or Prosciutto and Arugula.

From Sandwiches, the Italian Grilled Chicken gets my approval. Far from the average boring grilled chicken, this one had fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, spinach, and creamy pesto mayo layered inside a seeded Sciortino’s roll. It needed the red peppers to bring pizzazz to the mix.

You’ll also find pasta on the lunch menu including Mostaccioli, Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Cheese Ravioli filled with ricotta, spinach, basil, and Grana Padano. Penne with Sauteed Shrimp in marinara had more asparagus than shrimp and that was fine with my companion. The chef had gently cooked the asparagus to keep it crunchy. Tomatoes, garlic, and basil, added flavor and color and the shrimp, albeit sparse, was adequate.

Also on the menu are three salads, Caesar, Mista, and Caprese that you can turn into a meal with some Chicken or Shrimp for an additional $5.00.

From June to September the Italian Community Center has free music in their lovely courtyard. Friends and I came June 19 to hear Robin Pluer and the R & B Coquettes. They put on a dazzling show which will repeat July 17 and September 11. Thanks to rain, the show moved indoors to a large room where overhead fluorescent lighting lit the room like a dentist’s office. A limited menu, Courtyard Concessions, is available when you come for the music.

This time we ordered pasta, Mostaccoli Alla Norma, sautéed eggplant in a tomato sauce with garlic, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil. There was more mozzarella than eggplant swimming in too much tomato sauce. We sopped up that problem with Sciortino’s bread.

Each time I visited I had excellent service. Thank you Jacq, Gregory and the server at the music venue who exchanged my glass of undrinkable syrah for a mediocre cabernet.

There was a superstar lurking among all the dishes I sampled and that would be Bartolotta’s Tiramisu. I don’t have adequate words to describe this exquisite dessert. What I can say is if you dine at La Scala, do not leave until at least one person at the table orders and shares this spectacular dessert.

On the Menu

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The Rundown

  • Location: 631 E. Chicago St.
  • Hours: Summer hours - 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mon-Fri, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tue and Thu during the summer concert series
  • Website: https://www.bartolottas.com/restaurants/cafe-la-scala
  • UM Rating: 2.9666666666667 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)

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