Photos by Haley Winckler

Photos by Haley Winckler

By Morgan Dorfman

Do you ever feel like escaping your current city for a night? Most of us do, but being a college student doesn’t usually allow for that. If you are in search of the big city life but you are situated in Madison, Wisconsin, reserve a window table at Francesca’s al lago located on Capitol Square.

From the low lighting to the dark woods and white walls, Francesca’s allows you to feel like you are having a night out in a big city, which is due to its big city roots. Francesca’s started as a quaint restaurant in Chicago by Scott Harris in 1992 and since then grew to 22 other locations with the same Chicago charm. Everything about the restaurant feels upscale. The bar is secluded from the dining room and there are big, round light fixtures that hang from the ceiling. The atmosphere is intimate, cozy and sophisticated. Perfect for meeting up with close friends or a loved one.

One of my favorite aspects about this restaurant is that every month they change a majority of the dishes on their menu. They hand write each new dish they add to the single page menu for a personalized touch. They keep certain dishes on their menu from month to month but when you return to dine there another time, the menu may offer completely different dishes to choose from. It keeps things fun and fresh.

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Photos by Haley Winckler

I dined at Francesca’s in the middle of the week and the amount of people surrounding me in the dining room remained pretty steady while I was there. Much to my surprise, the turn around time from ordering to receiving my dinner was noticeably fast. Prior to your meal, they give you warm Italian bread while you wait.

My first thought when I received my Rigatoni Con Mozzarella was about the colorfulness of the dish. Making a classic rigatoni and cheese dish creative is not easy, but the tomato basil was a sunset, orange-red with speckles of green from the basil with the white mozzarella sprinkled on top. The sauce and the cheese offered a very rich taste along with the noticeable freshness of the rigatoni. It was downright quality food.

My friend ordered the Tortellini Con Pollo. This dish was made up of cheese filled tortellini with grilled chicken, sautéed spinach and pine nuts in a light, basil cream sauce with fresh tomatoes. The freshness of the ingredients again impressed my taste buds, along with the oozy cheese of the tortellini against the crunchy pine nuts. It can be hard to find fresh produce in Wisconsin during the wintertime, so I was very impressed with the quality of the food.

The amount of food you receive is very comparable to the price you are paying. Most items on the menu were a little more expensive, but you received quality food and a good amount of it. Between the bread and the pasta, I really wish I would have saved room to try some of their desserts, like the tiramisu!

One of the main tests that I do when I try out a new restaurant is to check out their bathroom. A chef once told me that you are able to tell how clean a restaurant’s kitchen is by how clean their bathrooms are. And to my delight, Francesca’s bathrooms were spotless.

Francesca’s is a place that I will go back to when I feel the need to have a night out on the town or to have dinner with my family. You can’t go wrong, from the intimate atmosphere to the fresh and filling food.

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