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Mystery Diner: Isacco’s Kitchen specializes in Northern Italian cuisine

What sets Isacco’s Kitchen in St. Charles apart from other Italian restaurants in the area is the food. The family-owned restaurant serves recipes hailing from Northern Italy, a pleasant differentiation from the usual southern-Italian cuisine served at most Italian eateries.

Isacco’s dinner menu items include homemade duck ravioli, with sage, butter, smoked prosciutto and Parmigianino; Berkshire pork chop Milanese on a saffron risotto; and braised short ribs cannelloni with sautéed spinach and mushroom in a port reduction.

A cheery, yellow building situated on a side-street behind downtown St. Charles’ busy Route 64, Isacco’s Kitchen has an outdoor dining area that is a perfect spot to eat and drink in the warmer months. The restaurant has covered outdoor dining with ivory curtains that sway in the breeze, in addition to its cobbled patio decorated by a canopy of café lights.

A quaint, relaxing atmosphere awaits inside. The bar area exudes rustic charm with earthy features such as wood and a Napa Valley wine barrel anchoring the center of the room.

The relaxed vibe continues around the corner into the intimate dining room.

Isacco’s is comparable in price to St. Charles’ other Italian restaurants, with entrée prices ranging from $18 to $28 for dinner. If that’s too expensive, then visit for lunch. You can get some of the same entrees for less.  

Isacco’s dishes are made to order and use fresh ingredients, including hand-made pasta.

My dining companion and I visited for lunch on a Friday and had the place to ourselves. The service was impeccable, and the food matched. The restaurant also has an extensive wine list.

Our table was fit with a brown bag filled with a few pieces of warm bread and a scoop of butter on the side.

Each menu item is thoughtfully prepared and creative. I ordered the Crab Ravioli Diablo with shrimp and scallops in a spicy vodka sauce, which is available on the lunch menu for $18 and on the dinner menu for $26. Normally not one for spiciness, as it has a tendency to overpower other flavor components in a dish, I decided to take a chance on the recommendation – a risk well worth the reward. The scallops melted in my mouth, and the shrimp were robust and cooked perfectly.

My dining companion ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna Salad ($15) layered with mango papaya salsa and avocado. The searing on the tuna was perfection, and the fruit gave the salad a citrusy zest that reinvigorated the tuna. The dish is a perfect choice for outdoor dining as it is healthy, cool and refreshing.

Don’t expect entrée leftovers from Isacco’s Kitchen; the dishes have just enough to stave off hunger, but not enough to put you into food coma. My dining companion and I each finished the complimentary bread and may as well have licked our plates clean.

Other dishes that caught my eye were the fried dates and beet salad ($10) with goat cheese and balsamic dressing; butternut squash ravioli ($12) with salsiccia and creamy asiago sauce; Ossobuco ravioli ($14) with Italian bacon, sage-butter sauce and pistachio; and the mushroom risotto ($14) with chicken, to name a few.

During our inaugural visit to Isacco’s, our waiter told us to start from the top of the menu and on subsequent visits work our way down, because – as first-timers – we would probably be back. At Isacco’s, that’s a commitment worth honoring.

• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.

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