Francesco’s Hole-some Italian
FRANCESCO’S HOLE IN THE WALL
Where: 254 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook
Hours: Lunch — 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m. Friday; dinner — 5-9:15 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 5-10:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4-8:45 p.m. Sunday
Phone: (847) 272-0155
Updated: May 16, 2012 1:20PM
“Lot’s of love,” is how Frank Gallo, owner of Francesco’s Hole in the Wall in Northbrook, explains
his staying power on the North Shore for the past three decades. “I do it with love and it’s a gift that I am able to do it and have a knack for it.”
Gallo started cooking in his father’s Milano’s restaurant on Rush Street when he was 8 years old. Now, some 60 years and three restaurants later, the borders between knack and experience have begun to blur.
“It’s a very difficult business but I love it. I love the people; I like cooking and do most of it myself.”
It’s not unusual to walk into his Hole in the Wall, so named for its obvious diminutive size — the place seats 45 comfortably — and see Gallo preparing dishes himself decked out in his signature suit and tie.
“I’m old school,” explains Gallo off-handedly, a quality that has worked well for him as much in his demeanor as in his cuisine.
Besides bringing back Italian “peasant-food” staples like white beans and escarole with grilled Italian sausage ($11.95), Gallo will happily create a recipe on the spot.
“We get a lot of customers who come in and say, ‘I have a taste for this, this and this, but I don’t like this, this and this.’ And the next minute Frank is back there making them what they want,” said long-timer server Mary Vaccarella. The big joke among the crew, she says, is “why we even bother making a menu.”
But Gallo doesn’t mind. This desire to please customers at any cost is what has gotten Hole a reputation not just among the North Shore’s notoriously persnickety diners but with savvy foodies on both coasts, including a slew of Hollywood elite whose photos and messages of gratitude pepper Hole’s walls.
Little wonder, then, that Gallo is not shy about his successes. “It will probably be some of the best Italian food you’ve ever had, anywhere. Anywhere,” he said.
Try frank’s favorite pasta, served in the traditional Italian family style with the meat and pasta served separately. The meat dish brims with hearty portions of slow-cooked veal meatballs, short ribs and Italian sausage. The pasta is Calamarata tubular, flat noodles ideal for sopping up the savory sauce ($22.95).
The chicken diavolo, so called for the hint of heat it carries, is another succulent dish made of de-boned, brick-oven roasted chicken with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh herbs, mushrooms and roasted potatoes ($22.95).
Seafood dishes can include the oven-roasted bronzino, a Mediterranean sea bass served with capers ($26.95), or the bountiful lobster and seafood diavolo with scungilli, black mussels and lobster tail ($32.95).
End your meal on a traditional Italian note with Francesco’s caprese salad featuring imported Mozzarella di Bufala and a variety of antipasti ($15.95).
Perhaps Gallo’s good friend, writer-director Harold Ramis, sums it up best when he says that Francesco’s Hole in the Wall is, “a great neighborhood place but with real, world-class food.”