BRAVO! Cucina Italiana

November 13 2008 - 9:02 AM

You know when you walk into a restaurant and the majority of people are waiting to see Madagascar 2 that you are probably in the wrong place.  That’s exactly where I found myself early on a Saturday night – at Bravo, the new restaurant that replaced Wolfgang Puck’s next to the Evanston Century Theater.  The proximity to the theater makes it an easy choice, especially as the weather gets colder.  The wait for a table on a Saturday was about 30 minutes.  We luckily got a seat at the bar, ordered wine and reviewed the menu.

On paper it all looked good. Hearty pastas, meat dishes, pizzas and Italian standards like eggplant Parmesan and lasagna offered plenty of options.  The prices looked good as well with dishes ranging from $12 for pizza to $22 for filet mignon.  We walked through the expansive dinning room filled with large white Roman columns to our table.  Our waiter was attentive and recommended several items.  We decided to split the Caesar salad and ordered two pasta dishes; the pasta Bravo with rigatoni, wood-grilled chicken and mushrooms tossed in a red pepper cream sauce as well as the Mediterranean pasta with shrimp, whole-wheat penne, spinach, pine nuts, feta bouncy castle and sun-dried tomatoes tossed in a garlic oil sauce.

My second clue that this was not going to be my type of place was the “Barilla” pasta – a classification I can never understand being highlighted on a menu since it is something I can buy at Dominick’s and make at home.  The Caesar was very ordinary, smothered in a garlicky dressing with loads of Parmesan cheese.  The rest of the meal was pedestrian as well. Both pasta dishes were very bland, needing extra salt, pepper and heaping spoonfuls of more Parmesan cheese.  There was really nothing technically wrong with the dishes, the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and ingredients were true to their description but it all fell short on flavor.  If I wasn’t staring at the bowl I would never have been able to tell that I was eating feta.  The typically robust cheese was completely lost.  The sweet flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes was also lacking.

As with any chain restaurant, Bravo is owned by Bravo Development Inc that also operate two other Italian concept restaurants. They are trying to cater to a variety of tastes and have developed a menu that certainly would not offend any palate however, in doing so they have taken taste and excitement out of dishes that you can easily get, and better, at any local Italian restaurant.

BRAVO! Cucina Italiana
Church Street Plaza
1701 Maple Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201
phone: 847-733-0917