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[Photograph: Tessa McLean]

If you're searching for Italian comfort food in River North, most people will steer you toward Club Lago. On a recent Monday lunch excursion, that comfort food meant a meatball sandwich, specifically, the Italian Meat Ball ($6.50).

The biggest downfall of most meatball sandwiches is the size of the meatballs, which Club Lago got right. Three medium-sized meatballs filled each half of the sandwich—not so huge they don't fit between the bread, but large enough to be incorporated in every bite. They were moist enough that they broke down under pressure, mixing with the sweet, hearty tomato sauce. That sauce begged for a bit more salt to even out the sweetness of the onions and tomatoes, but it is applied evenly enough to avoid both overpowering the flavor of the meatballs and breaking down the thick Italian bread. The crispy bread kept me from losing any meatballs to soggy bread and provided a nice crunch to the otherwise soft sandwich. I added provolone at the recommendation of the waitress, which added just a hint of smokiness.

Sides are a la carte, and the fries were surprisingly excellent—crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. There aren't many restaurants that can boast a great Monday lunch crowd, but with simple Italian favorites and a lively atmosphere, I can see why Club Lago has always been a neighborhood favorite.

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