Evanston’s Trattoria Demi offers affordable hearty Italian fare anytime, but the best deal is to head there for lunch. Offered every day--not just weekdays--its lunch specials provide excellent, made-to-order dishes at fast-food prices.
I’ve been a fan of the eatery at 1571 Sherman Ave. since I was a student at Northwestern University. The intimate restaurant is nice enough to take a date without putting a strain on anyone’s wallet. The portions are also huge, so the prices are made more reasonable by knowing you’re typically paying for two meals.
This was my first time going to Trattoria Demi for lunch, and when I visited the inside of the restaurant was empty as everyone was enjoying the beautiful weather in the sidewalk seating area. The charming outdoor area features dark metal chairs and tables surrounded by a fence topped with flower planters. It was sparsely populated by a few other couples.
My fiancé and I asked for recommendations and our server took time to talk a bit about the menu and the ingredients of the dishes we were interested in, though she didn’t express any real preferences. We started with a basket of homemade sweet potato chips ($1.50) which came out immediately. The serving was large and the chips were crisp on the outside while a little soft in the middle. They’re just lightly salted to let the natural flavor stand out.
We did order the baked goat cheese ($7) from the dinner menu. Always my favorite part about going to Trattoria Demi, the dish features a very hot bowl of marinara sauce with plenty of creamy cheese in the middle. It tastes wonderful spread over the accompanying long slices of toasted Italian bread, which are topped with a layer of baked pesto sauce.
Our entrees came out soon after we were finished with the appetizer. My fiancé went with the chicken parmesan sandwich ($8). It turned out to be so large that he took the other half home. The fresh bread is piled with grilled chicken that has a distinct charred flavor, and topped with a layer of sauce and parmesan cheese.
I went with the half order of rigatoni and ricotta, one of the $5.99 lunch specials and a truly remarkable value. A deep bowl is filled with the perfectly cooked pasta, which is covered with a blend of marinara, mozzarella and pecorino cheese served piping hot. The meal is served with a small romaine lettuce salad, but the pasta was so hearty I didn’t need anything else.
I did take advantage of the warm bread provided on the side, which was great for dipping into extra sauce and cheese.
While the lunch specials are only available for dine-in service, if you have a bit of time Trattoria Demi is a treat. A leisurely meal there can leave you feeling content and satisfied, even after you’ve gotten the bill.