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Review: Fiorentino's Cucina Italiana restaurant

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You feel the warmth at Fiorentino's Cucina Italiana, 2901 N. Ashland. It's aglow with tiny white lights, alive with friendly servers and redolent with the aromas of lovingly made Italian food.

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The garden room is especially festive - they have a whole garden of plants studded with white lights that makes the room cozy for either intimate dining occasions or festive for big family gatherings or organizational parties. They are known for hosting lots of both.

The food is down-home Italian from beginning to end. From crisply breaded calamari (num!) to grilled octopus and Sicilian arancini (rice balls), from arugula salad with shaved Parmesan to seafood combos, you're sure to find an appetizer that gets your palate charged up for more.

The main courses include veal, chicken, filet and seafood options. Pastas are many: sample the portobello mushroom ravioli in a brandy cream sauce or the cheesy stuffed gnocchi in a light tomato cream (pesto and marinara also available). And if you happen to be someone who needs gluten-free choices, Fiorentino's is on your side. They have converted several of their signature pastas to gluten free and are working on additional items.

Desserts include lusciously creamy gelato in different flavors and a de-constructed cannoli plate (the crispy shell part is broken into pieces and stuck upright in a pillow of ricotta cheese filling). The menu goes on and on. The servers pay attention to your needs. The bartender was super friendly at the tiny bar at the back of the main room. There you can enjoy a cocktail before dinner - or just enjoy a cocktail any time.

Give this cozy place a try when you're in the neighborhood (Ashland and Diversey). They open at 5 pm seven days a week.

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