Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap – Little Italy, Chicago

Biggest portion of calamari ever... and this was only the half order.

Review By: Stefanie Parks –

We had never heard of Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap when Dave’s parents recommended we all go there for dinner during our trip to Chicago. After looking at the menu online, we were a little skeptical. We’d never seen a menu quite like this for an Italian restaurant. Instead of listing out each specific dish, they just listed the types of pasta, the different sauces, and then the meats you could add. Was this a build-your-own pasta place? We were confused, but Dave’s parents told us to trust them, and so we did (they always give us great reccos in Chi and have never taken me to a place that I didn’t love!).

From the second we waked in, I immediately knew that I was going to like this place. What little space on the walls weren’t covered by pictures of famous people eating at the restaurant were covered by huge copies of the menu. It was casual, everyone looked like they were having a great time, and most importantly, it smelled amazing. We got seated right next to one of the huge wall menus, and as soon as we sat down I realized how hungry I was.

We took a few minuts to look through the menu, but for starters Dave’s parents said that we had to get the house salad. We were definitely in for that, and for an order of fried calamari. When we told our waitress (who may or may not have also been the owner of the restaurant – I’m not sure, but she definitely seemed like she was) what we wanted, she told us that we were getting the small portion of each (no, she did not ask us what size we wanted, she just told us what we were getting). And when the appetizers came out and we all secretly thanked her for making that decision for us. The small portions of both the salad and calamari were still HUGE.

The salad had everything in it that you could possibly want. Lettuce, tomato, cheese, olives, salami, green peppers, banana peppers, artichokes, and probably another veggie or two that I’m forgetting. It was a perfect Italian salad. The calamari was perfect too. Crispy, flavorful, and the sauce kind of tasted like a mix between marinara and BBQ sauce. I loved it. Dave had to give me the “stop eating all of that calamari or you’ll be too full for the rest of your meal” look at least two or three times.

When it came time to order our entrees, Dave and I were torn. Without fail, we always order Chicken Parm when we go out for Italian, so that was already decided. But, should we also get the rigatoni with vodka sauce and meatballs OR the Fettucini Alfredo with broccoli and chicken?? Such hard choices! On one hand, we really never order fettucini alfredo but on the other hand, we always love a good rigatoni with vodka sauce and meatballs. Well, once again, our waitress (bless her heart) made our decision easy for us. “Why don’t we substitue the spaghetti that comes with the chicken parm for the rigatoni with vodka sauce. You can get a meatball on the side and then the fetuccini alfredo as your other entree.”

Well, why didn’t we think of that!? Done.

First, I tried the rigatoni with vodka sauce. It was delicious… But like I said, I always love that dish. It came with one big meatball, which was so good too. Once I tasted the fettucini alfredo, I remembered why I don’t order it very often. It’s always a bit too rich for me, but adding the broccoli and chicken to the dish definitely helped with that. The sauce was great and the whole dish was very good.

And then, the chicken parm. To me, this was the star of the show. It was perfectly breaded, crunchy on the outside but still extremely flavorful and moist on the inside. I literally could not get enough.

Between the great, laid back atmosphere, the delicious food, and the HUGE portions, once again, Dave’s parents picked a winner. I already can’t wait to go back for more calamari and chicken parm.

  • Disa DiBuono

    Thank you so much for such a great review! See you again soon in the restaurant!