"italian inspired. honest cooking." how great does that sound? pretty great. and that's just what balena, right on n. halsted street in lincoln park, is all about.

i recently headed over to balena with ...

my pretty friend, jessie :
we wined & dined. xx!

jessie had been to balena before, but i had not. she had informed me that the decor was beautiful ... damn. she was right. balena is located where landmark grill used to be. and if i remember correctly, the atmosphere in that place was a bit of a cluster ... chef/owner chris pandel & his team did a fantastic job on the re-design. 

anyway, here's what i had ...

wild arugula salad :
with winter citrus & lemon vinaigrette. 
this simple salad is my absolute favorite way to eat arugula. a light vinaigrette and some fresh, tasty citrus & crisp greens. so good.

 tuscan kale & farro bowl :
with pine nuts, kalamata olives & sliced fennel. 
one of the best things about eating at restaurants that have chefs who care ... is that they (sometimes) enjoy (i hope!) coming up with a vegan option when none are available on the regular menu. and this time, chef pandel created quite the treat. it was simply sooo flavorful. i love me some kale (as you know), so i was super excited to see it on the menu ... and even more excited to have it incorporated into my meal. everything was super fresh and the farro (i think it was farro) was the perfect grain for the dish. all in all, great, diverse texture & taste. oh, and the kalamata olive bits added the perfect amount of salty amazingness to the meal. mmm!

balena is definitely on my repeat list. i can't wait to bring josh back for a date night. buon appetito!