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About Balena Italian - Temporarily Closed
Balena has been executing honest, Italian cooking in Lincoln Park since 2012. Led by Executive Chef/Partner Chris Pandel, the restaurant is the first collaboration between Boka Restaurant Group and B Hospitality. Balena's many accolades include Best New Restaurants in America by Gayot and Bon Appetit, 3 stars by the Chicago Tribune, and a James Beard semi-finalist nomination for Best New Restaurant at the James Beard Awards. In addition to its 150 seats, Balena contains a chef's table right across form the hearth of its brick oven. as well as a gorgeous 18 seat leather topped bar, and a section dedicated to walk-ins.
Chicago, IL 60610
Italian, Pizzeria, Wine Bar
Hours of Operation:
$30 and under
AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
The North/Clybourn Red Line stop is one block SW
Private Party Facilities:
Please reach out to us to inquire about our private wine cellar for your next special event!
Private Party Contact:
Skyler Harrah: (312) 867-3888
Banquet, Bar Dining, Beer, BYO Wine, Chef's Table, Corkage Fee, Full Bar, Gluten-free Menu, Non-Smoking, Private Room, Wine
Balena Italian - Temporarily Closed Ratings and Reviews
My girlfriend and I had a wonderful meal at Balena. Compared to other restaurants serving similarly high quality food, the value is good. The pasta is clearly made in house and is delicious, as were the vegetables and the spicy lamb meatballs. Great place to visit for great Italian food!
We had nice service but meatballs were dry and the gnocchi had no taste. It also took too long, but waiter stopped by to say chef had overcooked it and was making another. Instead of comp'ing the dish, a second bland (arugula) salad was brought out. Was expecting more flavor and a more lively scene from a BOKA group restaurant. Was unimpressed and will not be back or recommending this restaurant to friends, unfortunately.
Calling all Italian-food lovers: go to Balena! The restaurant itself is beautiful, with rustic wood floors and and twinkling lights. The food is straightforward, healthy, and delicious. The house focaccia is a must-get starter, and the charred broccoli is a great side. As for pastas, you can't go wrong with any of them. Try the mafaldine with tomato fondue and basil and then go for a "craft your own" white pie. Pro-tip: this is a great place to go before or after theater at Steppenwolf, which is right across the street!
This was before theatre dinner. The food comes quickly, (but not too)! Everything tastes great. The servers are well-informed. We split an arugala salad, the 1/2 roast chicken, and a truffle pasta. They were all great. (and we were not given the sometimes 'snub' nose you get when you ask to split). It is a relaxed atmosphere while eating good food.
The menu is limited, which is fine and there were no specials, which was also fine. We've eaten there 2x and I will go back!
The food was INCREDIBLE! Cocktail were tasty!
Our waitress started off incredibly and somewhere in the evening a switch was flipped. She began literally dropping plates and beverages angrily on the table and stomping away. It was bizarre. Honestly, I'm hoping she was just have a rough evening. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, but not awesome.
I would still definitely go back for the food.
I chose to come to Balena with my sister and dad since it was right next door to the Royal George Theater where we were seeing Spamilton. I looked at a few nearby and picked this one based on the menu, as I hadn't heard of any of them. We were all so pleased!! I couldn't believe the luck of picking this awesome place. Our waitress was amazing, the food was fantastic, and the atmosphere was beautiful! It wasn't too loud, and they were very accommodating with our show time - very fast with the check when we only had a little time before the show. I would highly recommend checking out Balena!
The food was mediocre. The main issue regarded the people sitting next to us that were so close and being very disrespectful to the other guests of the restaurant. Once our waitress came over she didn't address the situation throughout the evening even after they left. I couldn't enjoy anything about the experience based on how they were acting. We asked to be moved and they told us it would be an additional 30 minute wait. A frustrating experience...
We have been several times and we're disappointed this time. The menu changes and we found very few things that seemed appetizing. The menu was very small. It's supposed to be a fish place and there was hardly any fish on the menu. The staff was nice and the ambiance is fun. May give it another try to see if they improve the menu.
went here for a late dinner with a big group of friends. we split bottles of wine, ordered various pastas, and were there for 2.5 hours! this place is one of my favorite italian resturants in chicago. would recommend everything on the menu - and definitely split bottles of wine - great price and so worth it!
Good food and cocktails, and excellent service. Right across the street from Steppenwolf, and right on time. I loved the roasted cauliflower, and I had a lemony pasta with greens that was delicious. The cookie plate and lovely tea were a great end to the meal.
Food was actually very good, and the people were nice but the service can certainly be improved.
I made a last minute reservation for my wife's birthday on opentable. We arrived with our 2 sons and were given a nice table. The restaurant was not crowded and our server was immediately attentive. We explained that we were not in a hurry, but after receiving our cocktails we felt pressured anyway to place our food order. We ordered our food and then my wife proceeded to open some cards and gifts at the table.
The food started rolling out of the kitchen. My sons were splitting a pizza and I wish the server had taken a moment to realize that my young son had ordered the fennel sausage pizza, which included chili flakes. I like spicy food, but this was way spicier/hotter than most adults would ever tolerate. Kids should not order that pizza! The server never stopped by to check to see if our food was good - he pretty much disappeared when the food started coming. I had to give my gnocci to my son and eat his pizza. We waited patiently for my wife's hangar steak to arrive, and it never did...so she nibbled on the gnocci.
Surprisingly, our server never actually asked if we wanted any desert - even though we had opened presents in full view. I would have loved to have a simple piece of cake and a candle for her (actually more for my kids since birthdays are important to kids) - but I barely had a chance to speak with the waiter.
Finally the waiter came by and I simply asked for the check. I told him to make sure that I was not charged for the hangar steak since it never arrived. He barely apologized and just brought the check - what a lost opportunity to simply recognize the mistake and perhaps ask my wife if there was anything he could bring her.
Anyway, this place has a nice ambience and nice people, but if our server was a little more observant then I think in time he can become an excellent waiter and probably do a much better job for the diners and the restaurant.
The staff at Balena were great. They had asked if we were celebrating anything when they confirmed the reservation (it was my Dad's birthday) and there was a birthday card signed by Balena staff members on the table when we got there. They also made sure to get us out the door in time to see our show. I will definitely be returning.
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