Located in the heart of the Bucktown area, Caffe DeLuca aims to bring a little piece of central Italy to northwest Chicago. Whether they accomplish that, however, is debatable. Though inspiration for the cafe is said to come from a pre-World War II eatery in the Italian countryside where people gathered "from miles around," we say the terracotta detailing and the faux clothesline that drapes across the ceiling are a little much.
But while the atmosphere boarders on kitsch, that doesn't make the food any less worthy of sampling. Take, for example, the Mandoria ($11.00), which means "almond" in Italian. This sandwich is aimed at striking the oh-so-delicate balance between savory and sweet. Brie cheese is melted over grilled chicken breast that's been seasoned with spices and herbs. Honey sprinkled with almonds is drizzled over the top, and everything's pressed together between two thick slices of ciabatta bread. Would you find this sandwich in an Italian deli? Doubtful. The menu in general is more casual Americana than traditional Italian. That doesn't make it any less tasty.