Francesca’s By the River / St. Charles, IL

A few nights ago, my mom had some big news to share, and what better place to celebrate than Francesca’s By the River?

Located on Second Street, within close proximity to Main and the Fox River, we arrived and were seated promptly.  A friendly staff in a large setting immediately greeted us with smiles, making us feel right at home.  I was a little upset that the room was dark, with all the shades drawn on a beautiful, sunny day, but my company quickly made up for that in cheerfulness.  

Starving, we ordered an appetizer of bruschette con arugula, which was topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and arugula.  The flavors bursting in each ingredient got us excited about the rest of the menu.  After diving into the specials, I decided on a burrata salad and zucchini flowers.  Frisee was topped with burrata cheese and delicious red and yellow beets.  Each chunk of vegetable was large, inviting the lucky recipient to pair each piece with the sweet cheese.  The rest of my family ordered Ceaser salads, which each had quality ingredients and shaved Parmesan.  

A bit new to the concept of eating zucchini flowers, I was only aware of their presence battered in beer, stuffed with Gorgonzola, and fried.  Not to say that isn’t delicious, but I was pleasantly surprised when my plate appeared with three flowers, covered in a tomato basil sauce and stuffed with mushrooms. Although zucchini flowers don’t have much of a taste on their own, they were an excellent vehicle for showcasing the sauce and mushrooms.  The finely chopped mushrooms flirted with the earthy sweetness of the tomatoes, and I wish I could have licked the plate!

My family’s dishes fared just as nicely, with Linguine al Fagottaro for my brother, who enjoyed the simple cold sauce atop his dinner.  My dad, a lover of ravioli, was not disappointed by his Ravioli Tartufati, smiling and exclaiming how wonderful the Parmesan cream sauce was.  Finally, my mom was happy to report that her Pollo alla Disperata was one of the greatest flavors she had ever tasted!  Sneaking a piece of pepper from her plate, it was hard to disagree!

Our waitress, as well as the rest of the staff, kept our plates moving and allowed us to share our stories from our days without interruption.  After trying out many Italian places in the Chicagoland area and being disappointed, I finally found a winner in Francesca’s.  And to think, they have a location just a block away from my old apartment in Chicago!

 

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