Since it was a White Sox game, I think I need to make a disclaimer. I said that food at the ballpark gets a little old, but at US Cellular Field you can get anything, and I mean anything. We're sitting in the middle of the second inning, and I'm just listening to all the vendors for a second. The first yells out "Margaritas," the next yells out "Calzones," and the third yells out "Paella." Completely dumbfounded I turned around to see that it was just a drunk fan pointing just how ridiculous the food options were (the Chinese food in left field and the steak fajitas are usually pretty good).
Anyways, the point I'm getting at is that we chose to eat before the game at a restaurant in the area. We went to Franco's at 300 W. 31st street, a mere 3 minute drive from The Cell.
Franco's is a tiny little Italian restaurant. There's probably seating for 40 people. In general the restaurant is pretty quiet and a low number of staff members running around, which gives it a nice relaxing ambiance. I feel like they'd take a reservation, but from the two times I've been there, I don't really think it's necessary. There's a nice outdoor area setup, but it's always been too cold to eat outside when I've gone.
The service was pretty good all throughout the meal. It wasn't very busy, so it was easy for the staff to attend to us, and the food came out pretty quickly. One interesting thing was that when my dad ordered a Grey Goose on the rocks, the waitress looked like he was speaking a different language (I think he ended up getting Kettle One).
We started out the meal with a Beet Salad. Although it only came in an individual size, the waitress was willing to have it altered to feed the whole table (I'm pretty sure they just took 4 individual salads and put them on a big serving plate). The salad was really disappointing. Most beet salads come with walnuts and goat cheese or something of the sort. This was just lettuce and beets with a overly peppery vinaigrette. Also, there weren't even that many beets, and I'm pretty sure they were from a can.
(I had to dig out a beet and put it on top for the picture)
For the main course, I got Salmon with Polenta, my dad got Rigatoni with Sausage and Peas, my mom got Mahi Mahi with Orzo, and Danny got Gnocchi. My dish was pretty interesting and might have been good if it hadn't been for a few things. One, the put far too much sauce on the fish, which leaked into the polenta and turned my plate into a soupy mess. Two, the fish was overcooked and over-salted. I thought my mom's dish was more properly prepared, although it had lots of salt as well. She seemed to like it though, so maybe I'm just being overly critical. I didn't try my dad's dish because it had sausage, but the noodles looked homemade and seemed to be well received. Danny's gnocchi were pretty good with a nice textural difference from the thicker edges of the gnocchi to the creamier center. The dish came with ricotta which kind of melted into the sauce, and I think it would've been better with cubed mozzarella like they serve at Pompeii Ristorante in Arlington Heights (best gnocchi so far). This however did not stop me from going to town on the gnocchi when Danny filled up early.
Salmon and Polenta
Rigatoni with Crumbled Sausage and Peas
Mahi Mahi with Orzo
My dad seems to really like this place. The first time we went there, I got some pasta dish, and I'd say that the homemade pasta is pretty good. Mostly though, I'd like to believe that any good Italian restaurant should be able to make a good pasta dish. It was everything else on the menu that left me so unimpressed by Franco's. From the empty salad to the poorly prepared fish, I think next time I'd rather take my chances with the US Cellular calzones. I'd give Franco's 1.5 out of 5 pearls.