I've written about Roberto's Ristorante's pizza here last summer, but I've really wanted to try their restaurant in suburban Elmhurst (see map). Cindy and I went into the western suburbs of Chicago a couple three Sundays ago to do some shopping and I decided to take her to Roberto's for lunch.
Since 1962, Roberto's Ristorante has been making great Italian food specialties and is famous in the area for their pizza. The wait for a pizza on weekends can be up to and past one hour. The pizza is outstanding - thin crust, tangy sauce, loads of fresh toppings. It's a killer pizza.
The dining room at Roberto's is very nice, very upscale. Owner Vito Moreci spent a bundle on a major renovation two or three years ago to update the dining area. Before that, Roberto's was a pretty casual restaurant, from what I understand. But it's very elegant inside now.
They have a smoking-bar area as you walk in, then they have two separate dining areas as you move through the restaurant. Linen table cloths adorn the tables and the decor is very exquisite. And they also have a great outdoor area right next to a very popular bike path/nature trail. Most summer evenings, the outside patio is packed.
When I ordered my first pizza from Roberto's, I got it to go because I didn't think you could eat it in the restaurant. I read somewhere when I was first doing research on Roberto's that you couldn't order pizza in the restaurant. When I went to pick up the pizza, the girl at the pizza counter (located just to the north of Roberto's main dining area) told me, "Yes, you can get pizza in the restaurant. Who told you that (you couldn't order pizza in there)? There's probably 10 to 12 pizzas in the dining room right now."
But it didn't bother me all that much. I wasn't really looking for pizza that afternoon.
It wasn't very busy at Roberto's when we were in there. It was around 2:00 when we got into the place. We were the only people in the second main dining area. There were a few people in the other dining room and a couple people in the bar, but that was it. Later on, however, two large groups of people came in for a late lunch. It taxed the two waiters on duty to no end.
Our waiter was a nice elderly gentleman with a thick Italian accent. He brought some homemade bread to our table and got our drink order. I didn't have anything special - water is all I got, actually. Cindy got iced tea, but said she may order wine with the meal.
Roberto's had a lot to choose from on their menu. I wasn't certain if I wanted pasta or what. I wasn't certain if I wanted red sauce or white sauce. There was just too much to choose from.
Cindy ended up going with the pasta Zsa Zsa with fettuccine noodles. It was a sliced grilled chicken breast with onions and spinach in a white cream sauce. I went with the Chicken Parmigiana - a grilled chicken breast covered in mozzarella and a tangy red tomato sauce.
Just looking through the wine list, it was rather impressive with a lot of west coast wines as well as a nice list of Italian reds and whites. Their reserve wine list was interesting and had a lot of pretty good prices on some very nice wines. I was tempted to get something, but passed on getting wine. Cindy ended up getting a glass of the Ferrari-Carano chardonnay.
After about 15 minutes, our meals came out. Oh man - the portions were huge! My chicken breast was just enormous! Cindy's chicken breast was cut into pieces and didn't appear to be as big as the one I had.
And even though my Chicken Parmigiana was excellent, once again Cindy got the better meal. The pasta was homemade and flavorful. The cream sauce was outstanding and the spinach was delicious. But both meals were way too much for us to eat. And since we didn't bring a cooler with us, we didn't have anyway to transport the food home without it being in the car for a long time. Plus, we still had stops to make at Caputo's, Sal's Liquor, Trader Joe's and Sam's Wine.
The bill was a little high, but pretty reasonable for as elegant a place Roberto's is - about $51 bucks for our food, plus Cindy's wine and a couple of dinner salads to start off. I tacked on $10 bucks for a tip of the waiter, who was attentive up to the point we got our meal, then sort of forgot about us as he got busy with a big table in the other room.
When the waiter came back, I said, "I've gotten the pizza here as a take-out before. I heard, initially, that you couldn't get the pizza in the dining room, but one of the girls at the carry-out counter told me that you could. But I don't see the pizza menu on the main menu."
The waiter said, "No, no. You can get the pizza in the dining room. But we tell people on Friday and Saturday nights that it is probably not a good idea because the wait is an hour to an hour and a half sometimes. But, no, just ask for the pizza menu if you want pizza next time."
As I was walking out after going to the restroom, I walked through the bar area and there were three people sitting at the bar watching a ball game on the flat screen TV and eating a large Roberto's pizza. I thought, "OK, next time I come and I want a pizza, I'll get one here at the bar."
Roberto's is a little out of the way, but that's one of the great things that makes this little neighborhood Italian restaurant so unique. The food is excellent, the pizza is world class and the service is great. Roberto's is one of those places that you wish was just around the corner from your house. At least, I wish it were for me...