Alla Famiglia, Italian, Fondue, Budget Beat
>> ALLA FAMIGLIA
You’ve got kids and you live in the western suburbs. You want to eat out but can’t seem to drum up a babysitter. Not to worry. Besides having enough space for your rugrats to run circles around the table until they collapse on the floor, Trattoria 225 offers pretty good food, remarkably inexpensive wine, an attractive room, and at least one waiter with a weird facial piercing. Order the grilled baby octopus and a pizza from the wood-burning oven (don’t tell Junior the crust is made with organic whole wheat) and drink a toast to yourselves. You’ve earned it. 225 Harrison St., Oak Park; 708-358-8555.
Grilled lamb chops with pea purée, mint vinaigrette, and zucchini fritters ($16)
Michael and Natalie Moore set out to open an affordable neighborhood Italian gourmet spot. A tall order, even for a couple with the success of Pasta Palazzo to their credit. But then Michael stumbled upon chef Philip Reed, a transplant from London new to Ravenswood. Reed quickly signed on to keep Il Fiasco “cheap and cheerful” with the likes of Neapolitan-style pizzas and pastas for $10 and generous entrées, such as grilled lamb chops (pictured), crispy duck confit, and sea bass, all comfortably priced under $20. Reed’s résumé, which includes a Michelin-rated restaurant in Tuscany and Launceston Place in London, makes Moore feel lucky to have found him. Sounds more like good fortune than fiasco. 5101 N. Clark St.; 773-769-9700.
White chocolate Oreo cookie fondue served with dippable fruit, marshmallows, pretzels, and house-made "rice crispy" treats ($12)
Executive chef John Hogan and the Keefer’s team are at it again. This time they’ve rolled out Tavern at the Park, a two-story American spot that overlooks Millennium Park. “It’s there to feed the masses,” says Hogan. With familiar favorites like chicken pot pie with wild mushrooms and classic caesar salad, he’s positioned himself to get the job done. But it’s Hogan’s white chocolate Oreo cookie fondue (pictured) that’s likely to be ordered by every table. 130 E. Randolph St.; 312-552-0070.
>> BUDGET BEAT
There wasn’t much shaking on this sleepy stretch of Ashland Avenue until Machu Picchu staked a claim, but now parking spaces near this spacious three-month-old storefront can be tough to find. The place is decorated with a massive photomural of its eponym and offers a menu loaded with homey- tasting Peruvian classics. Count on robust soups, anticuchos (grilled beef hearts), and zingy seviches ranging from seafood medleys to lime juice–marinated duck. Uh-huh, duck. The humble spud gets ample attention via appetizers such as papa rellena, a ground beef-stuffed mashed potato ball ($5.90), and papas a la huancaina, boiled potatoes enlivened by a zesty cheese sauce. Delectably moist tamales ($3.90) offer further temptation, as do delicate beef- and raisin-filled empanadas. Shrimp highlights the entrée lineup, particularly when blanketed by a sumptuous walnut-studded sauce (picante de camarones, $12.90) or shot with garlic (camarones a la plancha). Other dandies from the Andes include lomo saltado, a flavor-packed stir-fry of beef, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes ($10.90), and aji de gallina, a Peruvian take on chicken à la king. Plan on a leisurely meal, as it just might be possible to scale Machu Picchu in the time it takes to be served your anticuchos. BYO. 3856 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-472-0471.
Photography: (il fiasco), dave slivinski; (fondue) tyllie barbosa
food styling: christina zerkis