An arsenal of classic Italian dishes is set to arrive in the Pleasant District as Chef Joe Farina, known for his Chicago-style Italian fare, is poised to open Victory Italian at 100 S. Marion in Oak Park this week.

Chef Farina and his team welcomed guests to a friends and family event on April 12 and are set to begin serving their confident, flavorful, and familiar fare to the public on April 15. Expect kind service, generous portions and especially noteworthy ravioli.

We gladly ended up with a little bit of marinara sauce on our masks while enjoying our preview meal at Victory Italian. We savored a cheesy garlic bread starter and a Ceasar salad to start our meal. Expect Victory to deliver a bright, lemon-forward Caesar salad dressing with few (if any) anchovy notes. We lingered over a bowl full of Mediterranean mussels in a white wine garlic sauce before sampling “Joe’s Mama’s Meatballs” served with marinara sauce and whipped ricotta. If meatballs are your kryptonite, you’ll be pleased with these.

Chef Farina delivered a tasting of house-made ravioli to our table. The unassuming cheese-filled parcel packed bold flavor and comforting texture. We rounded out our meal by taking our server’s entrée suggestion. And here is what we learned from Jamie–don’t skip the pork chop Calabrese; the dish will make you a Victory regular. Pounded thin and lightly breaded, the uncomplicated entrée is enhanced by the addition of whole Calabrese peppers, pepperoncini, white wine, sage and lemon.

The family-friendly space has a generously sized, dog-friendly outdoor patio, while the interior embraces a sleek, yet welcoming black and white color palette that gives Victory Italian its distinctive throwback charm.

Perhaps it was the wine or “Fly me to Moon” playing over the sound system, but it occurred to me while at Victory Italian that this is just the sort of dining experience people are likely longing for right now. As we all try to remember how to dine in restaurants once again I found it easy to feel comfortable when the table was laden with Italian inspired dishes with distinctly American origins, like spaghetti and meatballs or chicken parmesan. Comforting, flavorful and familiar–in the best way.

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