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South (or West?) Side Cheap Eats: La Fontanella Restaurant

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jul 31, 2006 2:25PM

2006_07_lafonatanella1.jpgThe last time Chicagoist tackled eating on the Southwest Side, our map reading skills were called into question. So, knowing that this week's installment of "Cheap Eats" is located in the Heart of Chicago neighborhood, we'll let you debate whether this qualifies as a south side cheap eat, or a west side cheap eat. We're here to tell you about the food, which is worth the trip, with or without a compass.

When Chicagoist last visited the Heart of Chicago, we blew some money on pintxos. We mean that in the "that meal was so worth post-dating the rent check" way. This time around, we were rationing our cash for beer money tickets at Fiesta del Sol last weekend, so we needed filling cheap eats. Luckily, the Heart of Chicago is also the city's Heart of Italy, with all due respect to the paisans on Taylor Street.

2006_07_lafontanella2.jpgFranco and Marie Gamberale have been serving up classic Italian food at La Fontanella restaurant since 1972. A casual glance at the back bar might indicate that 1972 was also the last year they ordered some of the bottles taking up space, or dusted. And will you look at that framed poster of the Rat Pack? Why does Joey Bishop always get the shaft when the Pack is mentioned? Anyhoo, lunch entrees at La Fontanella are priced no higher than eight dollars. Chicagoist opted for chicken parmesan, with a bowl of minestrone soup as an appetizer. The soup's color looked more like pasta fagiolo, but the vegetables - including generous amounts of zucchini - reminded us that our order was correct. The parmesan was amazing for the price. The chicken breast was malleted and tenderized into submission. If it were able to move, it could probably do tricks. Served with vermicelli cooked al dente, we were content to savor this meal between swigs of Old Style (when in Rome). Our bill for the meal? Fifteen bucks, which allowed us to leave a generous tip, and give us a solid, alcohol-absorbing base for an evening of beer drinking.

The Heart of Chicago is one of those neighborhoods that makes living south of 22nd Street (AKA "Cermak Road") such an adventure, and well worth the visit. La Fontanella Restaurant is located on a two-block stretch of Oakley where it's impossible to not run into an Italian restaurant. La Fontanella is located at 2414 S. Oakley. Their hours of operation are 11:30 through 10 p.m., Monday to Friday, and noon through 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.