Reds and yellows filter through stained-glass windows, playing across the exposed-brick walls and white linens inside Cucina Bella's dining room. The modern bistro's set of robust menus touting custom-built pasta, weekly tapas specials, and sherry-kissed steaks earned the eatery the top spot on McHenry County Magazine's 2010 Best of the Fox list. Wednesdays nights' tapas menu puts a Roman twist on the classic Spanish small plates ($3.75–$8.99).
Though the communal plates of Italian food at Mandile's Italian Ristorante may look like exactly those served in the country homes of Catanzaro, Italy—looks can be deceiving. That's because the restaurant's chefs have not only mastered the traditional sauces and pastas of the region, they have found ways to seamlessly modify them to accommodate dietary requests. They can swap in whole-wheat or gluten-free pasta into most of their pasta dishes or pasta pinatas, such as the ravioli filled with four cheeses and topped with tomato cream and curls of parmigiano reggiano. Every day, they make their noodles fresh in house so that each dish bursts with natural flavors instead of preservatives. To pair with these pastas, they cook up anitpasti options such as the fried calamari and brick-oven pizzettes layered with traditional Italian toppings. No Italian meal is complete without a glass of wine, so the staff pour glasses of red and white varietals from throughout Italy and California.
Family-friendly Nick's Pizza & Pub’s menu exercises decision-making muscles with descriptions of thin and double-decker pizzas, italian beef, and stacked sandwiches served inside a winsome barn-style setting. Nick's signature pizza ($10.29–$20.29) arrives at tables metaphorically signed by the chef with sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers, which sit atop a crust that, like a the ice under a child whose parent has counted to two, is thin. The Hawaiian pie, alternatively, shimmies with barbecue sauce, pineapple, and canadian bacon over regular ($9.89–$18.99) or double-decker crust ($20.49–$23.29). Visitors looking to diversify their culinary portfolio can orally invest in italian beef resting between an 8-inch loaf of french bread ($7.99–$8.49), or dig into the layered goodness of a super italian sub, which packs a wallop of genoa salami, imported krakus ham, mozzarella, and a dollop of vinaigrette ($8.49).
Jimano's Pizzeria's deft dough-tossers craft homemade crusts, succulent sauces, and pies layered with fresh ingredients for an oven-fresh menu of Chicago-style pizzas. Top a thin-crust cheese pizza ($15.80 for a 16") or piñata-pack a pan-baked deep-dish cheese pizza ($17.95 for a 16") with a panoply of ingredients, such as pepperoni, mushrooms, bacon, or pineapple ($2.10 per ingredient for a 16" pizza), ensuring that modest pizzas don't have to arrive at the table undressed. Cooks also create stacked delights such as the italian beef ($5.85) or the crispy buffalo chicken sandwich ($5.99); baby back ribs ($16.99 for a full slab, $14.99 for a half slab) offer carnivorous sustenance coated in a homemade St. Louis–style barbecue sauce. The pizzeria's famed bread sticks ($3.99) satisfy carb cravings alongside a slew of pasta dishes, which arrive with sides of saucy banter and cheesy dialogue.