Close Quarters Cuisine

Last night my wife and I visited a place called Riganato’s in Geneva, IL. We had been out traveling in the area and thought we’d stop somewhere for Italian. Siri included the place in a list of suggested local establishments so we gave it a try.

The place is one of those old converted houses with lots of charm. A newer establishment that opened in 2012, it’s clean and well appointed decor on the inside instilled confidence for a quality experience, but the cheap looking disposable menus made me wonder what to expect.

The menu offers a mix of Greek and Italian dishes, pizza, burgers and sandwiches. We started out by sharing the Arugula and Mozzarella salad. This is a delightfully tangy salad with large chunks of artichoke hearts, diced tomatoes and mozzarella, and is well proportioned. My wife thought it was a bit overdressed, but I enjoyed cleaning my plate with my bread. We decided to go lighter and cheaper this time. They offer a large selection of gluten free options, so my wife enjoyed a yummy pork sandwich and a side of sautéed garlic spinach. She said the bun was well done, but we can only assume it was store-bought. I had a Manchego and Jalapeño burger with sweet potato fries. The fries were quite good, a bit limper than I’ve had at some places but the outside was still crunchy. The burger was generous and flavorful, offering a medium level of heat. To round out the meal, they offer these little mini dessert options that sounded delightful and are a perfect portion size. For GF there is only a house-made rice pudding, but that and my chocolate cake were great cappers on a pleasantly surprisingly good meal. We fully intend to return there some day soon to try their dinner entrees.

These kinds of places have been some of my favorites over the years. There is a certain charm to dining at a place that used to be a home. The layouts are always intriguing, many with fun twists and turns, and a cozy, lived-in feel. Cafe Isabella’s in Tinley Park has been a favorite for years. There are many of these types of restaurants throughout most major cities and I’ve visited a few in Springfield, MO, Dallas, TX, and San Francisco, CA. There are dozens of these throughout Chicagoland worth exploring, and I’ve enjoyed quite a few. I imagine the appeal of opening restaurants in such properties is based on factors like climate-consistent basements for storage, wiring and piping in place for gas, electric, and plumbing, offices and storage upstairs, built in porches or patios, and the charm of creating the feeling being invited into someone’s home.

Whether it’s your first date, or your first date since the baby was born, consider one of these restaurants for your next dining experience, and unleash your adventurous side. Enjoy!