Owner Rick Gratch caught himself calling Caffe Pranzo a "hole in the wall” Italian restaurant, but he’s not wrong. It just happens to be a very nice hole in a very nice wall, which is why customers have been returning for 14 years. Inside the building is an authentic charm that’s relaxing. The walls are covered with works from local artist Ann Shaw, and while there are decorations, it’s not crammed full of knickknacks — an easy way to distinguish the restaurant from some anonymous Italian chain. There’s nothing pretentious about Caffe Pranzo, which is just how Gratch likes it. "We’re not trying to be real fancy,” he said. "We don’t do a lot of nouveau cuisine, just classic Italian dishes.” Gratch said Pranzo’s chef has been there almost as long as the restaurant, which means consistent quality for patrons. Customers quickly become family at Pranzo, where changes to the menu are happily made to satisfy anybody with allergies or particular tastes. "We have a lot of repeat customers who have been coming here since we opened,” Gratch said. "We try to work with their dietary concerns to make sure everybody gets a good meal.” The restaurant, which is in the Colonnade shopping center, is an all-purpose spot for Italian food. Whether you’re on a date, talking business or bringing the family, it’s a great place to eat. Pranzo boasts a menu filled with Italian staples. Starters include baked cheese bread, fried calamari and bruschetta. French onion soup is always available as well as a soup of the day made fresh daily. Gratch said the veal dishes — including veal picatta, veal parmigiana and veal marsala — are especially popular, as is the selection of grilled seafood. And customers love to eat (and kids love to watch) pizzas made the old-fashioned way — hand-tossed in the air. Another specialty is the cheesecake, shipped directly from the world-famous Carnegie Deli in New York City. "It’s the best cheesecake there is,” Gratch said. "We have it shipped in from New York City. We serve it with vanilla cream sauce, a raspberry puree and toasted almonds on top.”
Where: 9622 N. May
Lunch hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Information: 755-3577 or www.caffepranzo.com.