Chicago Reader

From a distance Viaggio seems to have lassoed all the cliches of a pricey southern Italian red-sauce joint, beginning with a limited menu of pastas and meats dominated by tomatoes, peppers, ricotta, and bitter greens. I wasn’t reassured when I walked in and found two mirrored disco balls hanging among the half-dozen flat-screens, half of which were playing, I kid you not, The Godfather, Part II. But chef Victor Perdue quickly disabused me of those assumptions, beginning with a plate of house-roasted sweet-hot peppers and a basket of Turano’s bread to sop up the oil. All four ample appetizers show a bold, but deft touch where things could so easily go off the rails: fried calamari tossed in a tomato sauce were sweetened with a drizzle of aged balsamic, and two tremendous, bready meatballs in red sauce provided a counterpoint to a pile of verdant romaine leaves. Both pastas we tried--the signature rigatoni in "Sunday" pork gravy with enormous chunks of tender pork and an ice cream scoop of ricotta and the linguine with fresh-shucked clams tossed with whole cloves of roasted garlic--were cooked perfectly al dente. Entrees like a gigantic pork chop (plated with more peppers set against nicely bitter rapini) and, Poseidon forgive us, a sea bass Francese special of silky fish in lemon butter sauce and topped with spinach and jumbo lump crabmeat are big enough to feed two. The quality of these familiar dishes is so high (and the portions so huge) that everything seems more or less in less in line with what may seem at first to be an excessively high price point. All I’d ask for is a few more southern Italian reds on the wine list.

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