On the first floor of Fifth Avenue Station, tucked behind the elevators that lead to upper offices and loft apartments, Cafe Buonaro’s is a rare find in downtown Naperville, just steps from the Metra: it’s a family-owned Italian restaurant, and it’s not a chain.

cafe buonaro

Everyone in the suburbs seems to know Naperville, ranked by Money Magazine as a best place to live three years running, has a lot to offer residents: a great school system, abundant jobs, a quaint Riverwalk surrounded by retail from Starbucks to the GAP. But what it lacks, according to many, is the charm that once defined it. According to one frustrated Yelper, for example, “[What was] once a pretty interesting little area full of unique, small stores with a lot of character … is essentially a mediocre mall spread out over a few blocks.”

It’s true, I admit, while enjoying the benefits of the commercialization, the chain stores do lack something. Nonetheless, as part of its commitment to being a great place to call home, downtown Naperville offers several free events throughout the summer, one being Tuesday night concerts at the Carillon, its 160-foot tower bordering Centennial Beach and scenic trails. Yesterday, my friend Kristen and I were looking for good food to take with us, and I was on the special mission to find something from a unique restaurant, something small and different.

It needed to be nearby, not too expensive and, most importantly, not a chain. That’s how we found Cafe Buonaro’s, which was easy to get takeout from, I getting the toasted ravioli and she choosing the lasagna, with its crusty bread and salad.

cafe buonaro inside

Even on a Tuesday night, the restaurant drew a nice-sized crowd of diners, seated at large booths and cozy tables. The menu is handwritten on the wall, and white twinkle lights add ambiance. We put in our order and waited in the building’s lobby, sitting next to a fountain. The food arrived quickly, easily, packaged nicely in Styrofoam containers and plastic bags.

toasted ravioli

At $7.50, my toasted ravioli (appetizer size) was more than enough food and quite delicious. The breading was seasoned and flavorful, perfectly complementing the ricotta filling. I haven’t had any this good since a great batch from Tuscany, at the Taste of Chicago a few years ago. Perfect picnic food, great mom-and-pop restaurant, a definite must-try. I will be back, next time dining in.

Neighborhood: Naperville, southwest suburbs of Chicago

Cafe Buonaro’s
300 E. 5th Ave.
Naperville, IL 60563
630-717-0006

Cooksnaps
Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

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