Palio passes all previous expectations



No, not the act of being healthy and only eating from a specific list of foods. Not the people who discover dinosaur bones, either. The restaurant on Michigan St SE. Ever heard of it? 

Don’t feel embarrassed to say “no.” Up until last week, I didn’t know of its existence either. But after stepping into Palio’s snazzy, sophisticated atmosphere, I found that it made for the perfect dinner date or just a place to catch up with your friends; I definitely won’t be caught mistaking it for anything but a ravishing restaurant now. Despite what its name might hint, Palio is actually an Italian restaurant, and, wow, do they do Italian well.

Immediately after I walked in, accompanied by two other TCT staff members, Abby Wright and Nisha Rajakrishna, I was struck by two things: how modern and, I hate to say it, aesthetically pleasing the interior was and how empty such a chic place was. I expected to see at least a few other people mingling, at least at the square bar that was in the middle of the room, but after a guy and two of his friends left, we had the entire restaurant to ourselves.

From the lime green accents of the chairs and the mahogany walls and tables, I could tell this was a place that was definitely not acceptable to whip out homework from the backpacks that currently trailed behind us. But somehow, with the giant stone fireplace where the fresh pizzas are made and the walls covered in relic boxes and old bottles, I didn’t care. It was welcoming all the same.

We were greeted instantly by the manager, followed by a waitress that led us to a booth with a low-hanging chandelier above and a wall of old-fashioned items behind. Because there was hardly anyone else, we got to pick our seats accordingly. I will say that if you are planning to take a trip down to Palio, I would suggest a time right after school, so as to have the optimal experience such as we did.

When the waitress left and it was solely us and our booth, I was shocked to see that she had left full-sized iPads in her absence. This had to be one of the most unique aspects of the restaurant by far. With a few clicks of the buttons, we were able to see the entire menu, including pictures of the food. I was shocked by how many options Palio had, adding to the already challenging aspect of ordering food.

Besides fun company, I brought Abby and Nisha so that they would be the other half to my palate. I can’t eat dairy or gluten, but I thought a restaurant review would be unfair if I couldn’t eat over half the menu.

After viewing the endless choices, searching for the signature gluten-free (GF) symbol often placed by menu items, I was left disappointed.  I couldn’t find it. I asked my waitress what the gluten free options were, and she told me any pasta can be arranged to be made GF. This was everything I wanted to hear. I was terrified I would have to order another salad from a restaurant because of their lack of options and considerations for all people, but with the delightful news, my worries wilted away.

With that being said, I ordered the GF bolognese, while Nisha and Abby ordered the margarita pizza to share, not to forget the appetizer of potato wedges we all split.

The ‘wait’ for our food was around 15 minutes. And the only reason I quote ‘wait’ is because it didn’t feel like one at all. We were able to have conversations without loud noises from other attendants and also able to relax with the soft music playing and the TV show Friends airing in the background. It helped that we were the sole focus of the chef, so our food came in a timely manner.

The food arrived with waves of heat wafting off of it. To quote Abby, “I [was] salivating.” The food was captivating to watch as it was placed in front of us. I had a hard time getting Abby and Nisha to wait so that I could take a picture before they quickly devoured the food before them. And quite honestly, I don’t blame them.

If you’ve ever eaten GF noodles, you would know that they are either soggy or flavorless, and often times both. But to my surprise, these noodles were neither. The source was able to make up for whatever lack of flavor there may have been, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I was reassured that the hungry girls that sat in front of me felt the same as they swallowed one slice of pizza after another. That being said, these pizzas are definitely meant to share because of their considerable size.

The potato wedges were another delectable delight that we got to dine on and were the perfect thing to top off my meal. I will say that everything was filling. And even though we ate at around 4 o’clock, I was not hungry at any other point that night.

I put us all on one bill and was pleasantly surprised by the total of $32. I had pictured that a handmade pizza and specially made pasta would have been more, especially considering the place we were in. But no. $32. Probably not the perfect place for an afternoon snack, but for dining out with friends, I’d have to say it was an excellent price.

It’s no surprise that Palio has a 4.5/5 star rating and that I was suggested to review this restaurant in the first place. From the layout, the service, the diverse menu, and the atmosphere of relaxation, it truly was everything a good restaurant should be. I can’t say that there were any letdowns of the place, and it is definitely on my list of recommendations for a night out.