To celebrate my birthday, my wife and I just went to Geneva to explore the highly touted classic small-town downtown. We visited several great stores, such as the well-known “The Little Traveler”, Southwest Trading Company, Mr. Cromwell’s Attic, and the enticing “The Spice House”. The culinary highlights of our trip were two separate visits to All Chocolate Kitchen, and a late lunch at Gratto Italian Tapas.
As we traveled south on the east side of Third Street, we stumbled first across ACK, as it’s also known. Apparently, this place is famous for all the things inside made from chocolate, sugar, and whatnot, such as a life-size astronaut statue, or a giant chocolate tree. According to the website, “The Guinness Book of World Records awarded Chef Roby the World’s Tallest Cooked Sugar Building, the World’s Tallest Chocolate Sculpture and the World’s Longest Candy Cane, in 2013.” There’s a picture of the “building” on one wall. They offer a wide range of items, but since we were just starting out, we opted to try four different truffles. The PBJelly was pretty much what it says, the Black Walnut Cream, and Port were delightful, and their signature cocoa powder dusted french truffle was truly decadent.
We wandered down to the train station, then back up the other side. The place that most intrigued us during the trip for our main meal was Gratto. (I have no idea why their website is down.) This notion of italian tapas had piqued our curiosity, so we made our way back and were seated inside. It was earlier than we realized so they only gave us the lunch menu. With less selections to choose from, and being a bit overwhelmed by the heat of the day, Cathy and I started by sharing what would prove to be a pretty standard mozzarella caprese salad. I would have preferred a better size ratio between the tomato and mozz slices. These tomato slices were nearly twice the size of the cheese. The fresh basil was generous, but overall, I’ve had better versions of this classic.
Thus, expectations were a bit low for our entrees. We opted for two seafood choices. Cathy ordered a salmon with eggplant, and I opted for a whitefish. I can’t fully remember the description for her dish, but the combination of the topping and the fish was surprisingly good. She also chose the gluten free pasta side, which was spaghetti instead of the usual linguini. The simple evoo-based topping was tasty, but the pasta was a bit underdone. (I’m used to restaurants having trouble getting gluten free pasta cooked properly, so I didn’t hold this against them.)
My whitefish was topped with a brown butter cream sauce with capers, and served with a side of sautéed spinach and a simple linguini with what I think was a spoonful of bruschetta on top. The whitefish was crispy around the edges and tender in the middle. The sauce was delicious. The spinach was perfectly prepared for my tastes, and the linguini, while not standout, complemented perfectly. Overall, we were quite impressed with the entrees.
I casually dropped the hint that it was my birthday to the waiter. If they offer anything special for birthdays, he didn’t seem to know. Service wasn’t standout, but I’m spoiled working at a place with such high service standards, so I don’t expect much from a local operation. I would still recommend checking Gratto’s out, but go after 4pm if you really want to see what the tapas is like. I may go back and find out for myself.
Afterwards, we returned to ACK for truly amazing gelato. I had a seasalt chocolate truffle and Cathy had the Mossy Twig, a minty selection. We finished off with two more port truffles before heading back to the car.
If you’re looking for a great Chicagoland area small-town downtown experience, Geneva has a lot to offer. I plan to return soon. I can’t say if Gratto’s was the best choice for our meal, but it was not a disappointment. As italian restaurants go, I’ve had some better and plenty worse. However, I will probably never go through town again without stopping at All Chocolate Kitchen each and every time. With all the other reasons to make the trip, Geneva is a quaint little town definitely worth visiting, and ACK is the absolute must for every visitor’s to-do list. Enjoy!