Isabella d'Eestes was a much-vaunted patron of the arts in Renaissance Italy, and the owners of Isabella's try to keep that patronage of the arts alive. Each month, the art on the walls of the Isabella Cafe changes to reflect a different artist whom they're trying to promote. According to Isabella's regulars, and there are many, the art and the striving for beautiful display is reflected in the food.
The Tinley Park restaurant is built into a large, converted house. The green awnings and flowers in the window boxes, along with the wrought iron bench just outside the door, betray a friendly kind of lack of pretense. That feeling continues inside, where the seating suggests more of a banquet hall atmosphere than an intimate Italian cafe. The size of the place doesn't make it any less enjoyable, though, and many customers will tell you they are happy to dine here, special occasion or not, or at a table for two or 12.
And none would blame them, really. The food is excellent here, and as one might expect for an Italian restaurant, the portions are large, though kid-friendly: certain entrees can be halved for younger customers, and there are pizzas available. Those looking for more sophisticated fare, though, do well to order from the regular menu. Appetizers like the pan-fried scallops with roasted garlic mayonnaise ($8) are somehow even tastier than they sound. Takes on pasta are interesting, too: The fettucine al panna in an asiago cream sauce ($11) is nearly too rich to even think about eating in one sitting.
As much as Isabella's continues in its patronage of the arts, its customers continue in their patronage of the restaurant. It's a mutually beneficial relationship that results in artists receiving the support they deserve, and customers of the restaurant receiving the tasty food they crave. One gets the impression Isabella d'Estes would have been quite pleased.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Bill Burman