The Venetian Room at Verucchi’s is grotto-dark, soothing, far away from the world outside. Tablecloths are of the e-z-wipe variety, but napkins are cloth. Wall niches display scenic sepia images of Venice, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Vatican. There are no beer signs here! Crooners on the sound system are what you’d hear in a movie that wants to set the mood for a mid 20th century heartland supper club: Frank, Dean, der Bingle, Ella, Nat King Cole. (In fact, Verucchi’s has been around since 1914.)
Verucchi’s offers a full menu of Italian-American standards; but I came for a meal unique to the Illinois River Valley: fried chicken and ravs. The chicken, which Verucchi’s calls Italian fried chicken, sports a thick, rugged crust. It’s got some Italian spice in its batter, but it is more Illinois than Italy. A breast portion is large and dense, a bit dry by the time you get below the crust, but that’s OK, there is plenty of crust to mix with the meat as you eat. While not oily, it quickly melts into a luxurious chicken slurry on the tongue.
The custom hereabouts is to accompany fried chicken with ravs, which is short for ravioli, but in fact are tortellini. Verucchi’s ravs are nicely al dente and filled with innocuous cheese. They are served as part of a half-and-half plate with spaghetti, the two pastas covered with a basic Bolognese sauce.
While the ravs are OK, the surprise side dish at Verucchi’s is American fried potatoes. They are a festival of crisp edges, soft centers, crunch and chew. They glisten with sweet onions and arrive well-salted.