In the mood for Italian, we decided to visit Cotto A Legna, which sits on South Third Street in Geneva, just north of the train station.
The brightly lit interior with brick and stone architectural details is a beacon to commuters and people strolling the shopping district. The restaurant’s name translates to cooked with wood, and a wood-burning oven holds court from a corner of the spacious dining room. The wine bar is a destination not only for wood-fired pizza but a wide range of Italian dishes.
A big draw is its expansive patio space, which sports a pergola accent, and provides great people-watching on Third Street, not to mention the train action for rail fans. Last summer, the restaurant recommended grabbing a drink outdoors and digging into the handmade buffalo mozzarella paired with Prosciutto di Parma and olives for a summery treat.
With an early spring chill still in the air, we decided to order something a little heartier for a carryout meal and phoned in our requests. The process was easy, and we picked up our waiting food at the full-service bar.
We opened with arancini, two breaded and fried risotto balls, available in three styles with mozzarella. We chose one with rice in tomato sauce, which was mild and filling.
I had a yen for one of my Italian favorites, and tried the eggplant Parmigiana. The recipe features breaded eggplant in a red sauce with basil and imported Parmigiana cheese. The preparation was excellent, with a smoky depth to the tomato sauce and a lovely texture for the eggplant. It’s an appetizer, but the generous portion more than sufficed as my entree.
My dining companion usually can be counted on to go pizza all the way, but resisted once he saw the Straw & Hay dish on the menu, featuring egg and spinach tagliatelle – narrow ribbons of pasta. The width was all the better to ensnare the delectable vodka sauce, which ably picked up the flavor of bacon, one of the ingredients along with sausage, mushroom, onion, garlic, basil and heirloom baby tomatoes in bright shades. The outstanding dish was flavorful, brimming with tasty tidbits, and colorful to the eye.
The menu has something for every price point, and diners will find sandwiches, salads, charcuterie, steak and lots of seafood temptations.
We’ll definitely have to stake out a spot on the popular patio, and try one of the varied wood-fired pizzas. I’ve got my eye on the sauteed shrimp scampi, with lemon and garlic sauce, mozzarella, oregano, lemon zest, basil, Italian parsley and extra-virgin olive oil. And check out one of the town’s coolest public sculptures that anchors the view.
Cotto A Legna is celebrating a decade in Geneva. Cin cin!
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff when ordering or picking up the food. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Cotto A Legna
WHERE: 500 S. Third St., Geneva