I have often joked that you could stand in any random neighborhood of Chicago, toss a stone and probably hit at least one Italian restaurant. Short of being in Italy itself, I don’t think I have ever experienced such a huge concentration of Italian in any one city. In Chicago, the Italian restaurants run the gamut from inexpensive ‘hole in the wall’ type of spots to some incredible four-star dining experiences. Of the many I have sampled, one of my favorites in the mid-range of price is Prosecco, located at 710 North Wells Street in the River North section of Chicago.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, just after 5:30, I was on a bus travelling down Wells Street and I happened to glance out of the window as we passed Prosecco. On a whim, I jumped off at the next stop and decided to give it a “solo dining” try.
Here’s where what I call my “Single Diner Assessment” module kicks in. I have a series of parameters by which I judge any dining experience, but particularly when dining alone.
- First Contact: How am I greeted? How is my interaction with the host/hostess? How do they make me feel?
- Seating: Where do they seat me?
- Second Contact: How is my first interaction with the server(s)? How long do I wait? How do they make me feel?
- The Meal: Does the menu discriminate against single diners? How am I treated during the meal? Do I ever feel rushed to finish?
- The Exit: When I leave, does anyone engage me in conversation or say anything to me?
So how did Prosecco add up?
1. FIRST CONTACT – Of all my solo dining experiences (with the possible exception of ZED451), Prosecco wins this award. When I entered they immediately greeted me cordially. I asked for a table for one and was immediately seated. The entire attitude of the host and hostess was almost to treat me with extra special care as a solo diner, not to marginalize me as some lesser establishments often do. Special note must also be made of the amazing interior decoration. The Prosecco website proclaims, “Diners will be attracted to Prosecco’s inviting mix of fine food and fine wine graciously served in an art-filled space reminiscent of the faded, gilded beauty of Venice. Venice’s famous Piazza San Marco has been called ‘The Drawing Room of Europe’, and the partners of Prosecco have created a similar drawing room atmosphere in their new dining spot. Experiencing Chicago’s first proseccheria is as easy, elegant and enjoyable as a glass of its namesake beverage.” This is a beautiful restaurant which lends a wonderful positive feeling to any dining experience.
2. SEATING – They checked my coat and umbrella and immediately escorted me to a very nice table – not stuck in the back corner, not isolated alone in the center of the restaurant. This is one of the major criteria by which I judge the quality of a restaurant. The good ones treat solo diners no differently than anyone else. The bad ones treat us like we are somehow wasting their time by taking up space that could be used by more people. Prosecco got this one right, too.
3. SECOND CONTACT – Within seconds, a server arrived to fill my water glass, hand me the wine list and menu and make sure that I liked my table. She then offered me a free glass of Prosecco. This particular server was very friendly, so I introduced myself and we spent the rest of the meal on a “first-name basis.” She offered incredibly insightful advice about the menu and the wine list and possible wine pairings. Again, this was a very positive experience as a solo diner. I did not get a single bad vibe from anyone. Another server, in fact, came by my table just to see how I was enjoying the meal. And when I accidentally dropped a fork on the floor, someone was there to pick it up and hand me a new one before I could even lean over and pick it up myself. Superb service!
4. MEAL – This is, of course, the central point of having a dining experience and Prosecco definitely excels in this department. Their dinner menu is superb. They served a wonderful warm bread with both butter and an excellent homemade caponata. As a starter, I tried Carpaccio d’Anatra (duck carpaccio with arugula). For my entree, I opted for Gamberoni in Crosta di Pistacchio, a pistachio-crusted jumbo prawn with roasted red pepper puree. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down the names of the wines I paired with the two courses, but they were both excellent. The server suggested a great white with the Carpaccio and a superb Rhone blend for the shrimp. Wow! Truly an excellent food/wine pairing experience all the way around.
5. THE EXIT – Many restaurants seem to have a strange moment of ignoring people when they leave. Here, however, they were far from distant. They asked me about my experience, thanked me for coming, etc. Overall, one of the better “exit” experiences I have had as a solo diner.
I definitely give Prosecco very high marks as a solo diner. To them I say, “Grazie mille!” Try them out soon, whether alone or in a group!
Table For One, Please!