I had been on the road a lot toward the end of 2012 and I was getting pretty burnt out on restaurants, hotels and driving. I was in the Chicago suburb of Mount Prospect one evening and I was hungry, but didn't exactly know what I wanted to eat. I hadn't had Italian food for quite awhile and I decided to look for one in the immediate area. Doing a quick search on the Internet, I found a place called Canta Napoli in what would be called the downtown area for Mount Prospect. It wasn't far from the hotel, so I put the address in my GPS and headed toward the restaurant.
Pulling up to Canta Napoli at the Southwest corner of E. Busse and S. Emerson (see map), I found a very nice looking restaurant with a little patio out in front. Of course, since it was in the Winter the tables and chairs were put away for the season. I went inside and was greeted by a hostess with what I figured was an Eastern European accent. There weren't many people in the place and she seated me at a table next to a window in the dining room to the right as you walk into the restaurant.
Canta Napoli has been open since August of 2008. The owners are, I believe, a brother and sister - Adrian Hudema and Adina Gherman. They call Canta Napoli a family business and Adrian Hudema is the managing partner of the restaurant and Adina Gherman is the general manager. Maurizio Fonda is the chef at the restaurant.
The dining area at Canta Napoli is very elegant. It features a lot of intricate woodwork with dark wood beams and trim. I can imagine that the place can get a little loud with all the woodwork and the large windows. But I determined that this would be the kind of place my wife would like.
My server for the evening, Kristiana - who also had a thick European accent - came over and asked if I wanted anything to drink. It had been a long day and I ended up getting a Peroni beer to start off. She also told me of a couple specials they had that evening that weren't on the menu. To be quite honest, I had a little bit of trouble understanding her.
In addition to traditional Italian entrees on the menu, Canto Napoli is also known for their wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas. I thought about getting a pizza for a moment, but they didn't seem to have pepperoni and the only sausage pizza they had listed on the menu was paired with rapini. I didn't know what the hell rapini was, so I passed on pizza altogether. (Rapini, I found out later on when I looked it up, is a common Southern Italian leafy vegetable that is also known as rabe or broccoletti.)
I hadn't had pasta for awhile and they had a lot of pasta to choose from on the menu. The one thing that jumped out at me was the tortellini with prosciutto, mushrooms, peas and onions in a cream sauce. They also had a linguine with clams and mushrooms with your choice of a cream or tomato sauce. They also had linguine with mussels with either the cream or tomato sauce. It all sounded damn good.
Canta Napoli also features a number of chicken and veal dishes. I thought about getting the Veal Limone - veal with mushrooms in a white wine, lemon and butter sauce. When Kristiana came back with my beer, I asked if the veal came with a side of pasta. She said it did not. Hmmm... I really wanted pasta and I was sort of stumped what to get at that point. She left me alone for a moment to make a decision and I weighed the tortellini and the linguine with clams and mushrooms in my mind. When Kristiana came back to take my order, I decided upon the tortellini. Once again, I had trouble understanding what she said came with it, so I just said I'd take a house salad.
The salad was a bowl of fresh mixed greens with a vinaigrette dressing. Parmesan cheese was on the table and it livened up the already tasty salad. It was a nice start to the meal.
The highlight was the homemade bread that was brought out prior to the salad. Served in a small stone bowl, the bread was warm, chewy and downright delicious. I put a little olive oil on a plate and mixed in some parmesan and black pepper. The bread was excellent. I was worried that I would eat too much of the bread and I wouldn't be able to finish my tortellini.
Once the tortellini came out, all bets whether I could finish it were off. It was a huge bowl of tortellini pasta mixed with cheese-filled prosciutto, sliced mushrooms, peas and slices of onions in a heavy sweet cream sauce. It was enough for two people. And the taste was absolutely wonderful. But it was - OH! - so rich. My goal was to eat half the bowl because I knew that I wouldn't be able to finish all of it.
I was able to make a significant dent in the pasta, but I was getting pretty full. I could keep eating the delicious tortellini and feel miserable from being full, or I could pull the plug on the meal and call it good with a little over half the tortellini eaten. When Kristiana came over to check on me, I told her I was done, she asked if I wanted the rest to go. Even though I did have a fridge and a microwave in my hotel room, most cream-sauced pastas don't hold up well when reheating. It's never as good as when you get it fresh in a restaurant. The tortellini at Canta Napoli was simply outstanding.
For my first trip to Canta Napoli, I was extremely happy with everything about the restaurant. The ambiance, the service, the food - all were excellent. Even though I couldn't understand Kristiana from time to time, it was still a wonderful experience. I definitely plan on going back at some point, probably taking my wife there the next time we go into Chicago for a weekend.