If you can stand noisy and crowded on the weekends, give Palermo’s 95th in Oak Lawn, Ill., a try. The thin-crust pizza is a definite must-try, but you might consider one of the entrées from the extensive menu.
A recent Friday night dinner with three other couples proved to be an uneven experience. Service was friendly, and drinks, soup and salad came to the table quickly, but there was a long wait for our main course. No matter, the conversation was lively and it was hardly noticed.
Most at my table had a salad that looked crisp but of the bagged variety and the dressing came in little plastic cups, which I abhor. Two of us had soup — minestrone (which was given a passing grade) and pasta e fagioli which I thought was superior.
After the long wait, our entrées arrived somewhat cold but tasty. I thoroughly enjoyed my Orange Roughy Francaise ($21.50) even though I was a little dismayed at the appearance — PIECES of fish, not a whole fillet. But the egg batter it was dipped in and the lemon-butter sauce were great. In all fairness, the menu does say “fillets” of orange roughy, but I took that to mean two large fillets, not several small pieces. The side of mostaccioli with marinara was as innocuous in looks as it was in taste.
My partner had the Eggplant Parmigiana ($17.50) and it was very good but covered with an unnecessary layer of thick melted cheese. Once again, the spaghetti with marinara that accompanied the dish was nothing to write home about.
Another couple had Boneless Chicken Vesuvio ($21.75) with roasted potatoes that looked to die for and Chicken Alfredo ($18.50), which got two thumbs up even if the chicken and fettucine were hidden by a mound of cheese sauce. The latter is a house favorite.
Others at my table had a giant slab of Lasagna ($12.95), what appeared to be a pound of Mostaccioli with Marinara Sauce ($10.95), and Walleye Pike ($18.95). Everyone agreed if the food had been warmer, it would have been far better.
We passed on dessert even though these house-made desserts sounded tempting — Tiramisu, Nina’s Cassatta Cake, Cannoli, Pizelle al Gelato.
But I’ll definitely go back. There is so much on the menu, including all the Italian standbys — calamari, bracciole, polenta, veal, pasta many ways (including housemade pasta squares served simply with sauce, cheese and basil), gnocchi, ravioli — plus steaks and chops. It’s a bit like being a kid in a candy store trying to decide what to have.
The dining rooms are charming with their curved archways and frescoed walls. Amenities include catering packages, banquets, carryout and delivery, full bar, domestic and imported wines by the bottle and glass, bottle and tap beers, valet parking. Palermo’s is open for lunch and dinner and reservations are recommended.
Some special offerings that caught my eye are the Pizza College Bundles — three (10-inch) pizzas (cheese, cheese and sausage, cheese and pepperoni) for $20 (plus tax) individually freeze-wrapped for your college kid’s freezer.
The other was the 10-inch gluten-free crust pizzas, and coming soon Palermo’s 95th will offer dairy-free cheeses to meet the needs of those adhering to a GFDF diet.
A good time was had by all, but if you don’t like crowds, hustle and bustle, perhaps a week night would be a better dining experience.
Address: 4849 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn, IL 60453
Hours: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 1-10 p.m. Sundays; closed Tuesdays