Herbs, sauces, and artisanal cheeses anchor traditional Italian cuisine much like ramen noodles, animal crackers, and cocktail umbrellas anchor traditional college cuisine. Treat taste buds to a postgraduate meal with today’s Groupon: for $10, you get $20 worth of homemade Italian fare at Trattoria Demi in Evanston.
Nestled in the shadow of Northwestern University, Trattoria Demi sates scholars and gourmands alike with a dinner menu of made-to-order Italian cuisine customized to meet each diner’s preferences and dietary restrictions. Lemon and fresh herbs season antipasti plates of grilled octopus ($7), and the comforting warmth of a marinara-drenched blend of ricotta, mozzarella, pecorino, and parmesan cheeses ($11) helps university fledglings soothe homesickness and meet their daily cheese requirements. Midday diners can let eyes wander over the dining room’s idyllic french windows, or shepherd their attention to a lunch menu specializing in classic Italian sandwiches ($7.50+) while taking much-needed breaks from executive-level text-offs. Health-conscious diners at any hour can opt for whole-wheat pasta, and the kitchen’s staff members are happy to accommodate diners with special dietary needs by whipping up dishes with gluten-free pasta, low-sodium ingredients, or giant photos of their faces at the bottoms of the bowls.
In the age of abundant grocery stores with dry goods on every shelf, the ability to make pasta has become a relic of the Old World. However, the chefs at Trattoria Demi remind diners of what they’ve been missing by handcrafting all their pasta and stuffing the fresh, light dough with meats and cheeses. They slather the resulting dishes with both hearty and light Italian sauces, ranging from a rich tomato concoction to the stripped-down blend of citrus and olive oil. When it’s not shaped into pasta dishes, dough forms the foundation of Italian-style thin-crust pizzas, topped with everything from clams and white sauce to prosciutto and marinara.
The cuisine is served in a warm, blond wood–accented dining room situated in the beating commercial heart of downtown Evanston. The trattoria's minimalistic decor features a row of colorful still-life paintings hung above the bar, where guests can sip wines from all over the world without taking a 24,906-mile trip.