The weather was great today so we took advantage of Convito's spacious patio. Convito is both a cafe and specialty grocery store, so customers can buy gourmet goodies to take home as well as enjoy a meal.
The bread to start off our meal was fabulous, fresh out of the oven with a warm and crispy exterior and soft chewy interior. They were very generous too, giving us two loaves for four people.
I had the Grilled Salmon Nicoise, which could have been better. The salmon was seasoned with herbs and grilled to perfection, but the salad was over-dressed and far too oily. The hard-boiled egg did not look or taste very fresh at all. I was further disappointed when nary a Nicoise olive was to be found, though the menu led me to believe otherwise.
The Trio of Asian chicken salad, Pinto bean salad and a pasta salad was very basic - simply three globs from the market area served on one plate. My mom did not know what to expect when she ordered the Trio, and was a little disappointed with how it was presented. All of the salads were served cold and they tasted okay, but none were really great. It does state on the menu that the three salads are served from the market area, so there is no false advertising. Just beware if you are ordering the Trio that you are much better off simply buying those salads to go and eating them at home.
The Roast Turkey sandwich was okay as well, but not spectacular. It was accompanied by shoestring fries that were a little too greasy, but very crisp. The turkey itself was very good, as was the bread, but there was barely any aioli.
The Spaghetti with Meatballs was probably the best dish of the bunch, and the most expensive. The meatballs were very tender, a mix of veal and pork, and there was an abundance of marinara sauce - perfect for sopping up with bread.
For dessert, we tried the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, which had the strangest chewy texture, not at all the smooth and creamy texture I typically associate with panna cotta. Upon further reflection, we realized that it was one of the gluten-free dessert options on the menu, and perhaps this accounted for the strange texture. To its credit, the panna cotta did have a sharp vanilla taste and you could see little black flecks from the vanilla beans. I think it's great that Convito offers so many gluten-free options for those with celiac disease, but perhaps if you are not looking for gluten-free food, you might want to think twice before ordering a gluten-free dish.
Service was nice and it's a short drive north on Sheridan from Northwestern, so I will likely return to try different menu options. Some of the dishes, like Violet's ""signature"" tuna salad sandwich and the open-faced veggie sandwich, looked intriguing.
Pros: Outdoor seating, Great bread, Gluten-free options
Cons: Olive-free Nicoise, greasy dressing, chewy Panna Cotta