Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to visit The Pasta Bowl in Wicker Park. This was my first experience and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I’ll also prelude this with the fact that I am obviously not a professional taste-tester (except for my mom’s toffee) or food photographer, so bear with me as I go through this review. I promise there will be a point to this in the end.
To start off, we got the bruschetta, one of my personal favorite appetizers. Huge fan of using bread slices rather than crisps and they did not skimp out on the toppings. All about that.
For the main course, we each got something different so we had the opportunity to sample a few of their specialties.
- Chef’s Special [top]: rigatoni with a spicy marinara and vegetables
- Spaghetti & Meatballs : self-explanatory
- Signature Farfalle Pollo [bottom]: grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic-buttered mushrooms, plum tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and their world famous house cream sauce
- Chicken Parmesan : also self-explanatory
Overall, we each had the same reaction to our meals, great, traditional Italian food with generous portions (varying between $12-15) in a perfect date night atmosphere. It was also a nice surprise that Tuesday’s are $5 wine nights – there’s never anything wrong with a good wine deal.
To close out the meal, we had the Oreo dessert bar and the Marble Cheesecake dessert bar along with a shot of Limoncello which is made in house every day by the general manager and SO delicious. We were all stuffed but that helped to make a little bit of room in our stomachs so we didn’t fall into a coma on the car ride home (spoiler alert, I still did).
So why am I dedicating an entire post to pasta (even though it was one of the best Italian meals I’ve had out in a while) other than to torture you with yummy pictures? Because it’s marathon week and it’s time for runners’ favorite activity, carb loading! Growing up, carbs were a main food group for me but as we get older, we start to add more variety to our palette and forget how important carbs are, especially when we have a big run coming up.
I’ve done a lot of research on the importance of carb loading but I think Runner’s World does the best of simplifying it: “When you eat a bowl of spaghetti, most of the carbs are stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. Glycogen is your body’s most easily accessible form of energy, but it’s not the only source. During a half or full marathon you burn both glycogen and fat. But the latter is not as efficient, which means your body has to work harder to convert it into fuel. When you run out of glycogen during a race you hit “the wall.” Your body has to slow down as it turns fat into energy.”
Being a week out from race day, it’s important to have the majority of your calories coming from carbs, so about 85-95%, focusing on the last two or three days pre-race. Luckily, we have such a great option in Chicago (Wicker and Lincoln Park) to help us with that – the wide variety of options The Pasta Bowl has to offer along with the ingredients all being fresh and dishes being made in-house makes it a must-visit during this week (or any other time because yeah, it’s that good).