Lunchtime with Tillie: Graziella's

Vegetables: They do a body good. And if you happen to throw in a chicken parmesan hero on the side, what’s the harm, right?

Hello out there again, neighborhood! This week’s Lunchtime With Tillie found Baby T and me at Italian eatery Graziella’s , located on Vanderbilt between DeKalb and Willoughby. The main reason we went there was because a friend of mine and I just consumed a festival of fried food the night before—French fries, onion rings, chicken tenders…you name it, we ate it. So when it came to lunch the next day, I figured I better put something good in my body!

I’m not the type to just eat a whole salad for lunch, but I remembered Graziella’s has a real nice side salad they serve with their sandwiches and paninis at lunch. And for this trip, I loaded up some snacks for Tillie to eat as well—some Cheerios and blueberries cut in half. All that, as well as a bottle of formula, would definitely keep her satisfied (at least that’s what I told myself)!

We got there and the place appeared to be pretty busy, but we were immediately seated. When I take Tillie to a restaurant during the day, I usually just let her sit in her stroller, but since I had the finger food for her, I thought she’d be better suited for the high chair. I put some Cheerios on the table for her and took a glance at the menu. My main priority as far as my food went was the salad to assuage my guilt about the night before, so I went from there and decided on the chicken parmesan hero. It was tough because they have pasta and entrée specials, as well.


While I was deciding that, I noticed Tillie’s Cheerios-to-mouth ratio was way off with only about one in three being eaten, so I switched to the blueberries and that wasn’t going much better. I think I picked up way more than she actually ate! Then, I asked the waitress for a basket of bread and tore her off some tiny pieces, but those just ended up stuck to her hand without making it to her mouth. In other words, my little snack plan wasn’t working out like I thought it would.

Soon after, my lunch came out: that salad with the chicken parmesan sandwich, just what the doctor ordered. All those greens, carrots and tomatoes with a nice vinaigrette dressing—yum! The crunch, the freshness … OK, wait, I can’t do this anymore. I really wasn’t there for the salad; I’m just trying to make myself feel less guilty about the night before, especially if Tillie’s mom reads this! The salad was really good, but this sandwich--whew!

This is no exaggeration: Graziella’s actually makes the best chicken parm hero I’ve ever eaten. I ate it once before and was very pleasantly surprised. The bread, perfectly prepared to give it the right crunch; the chicken, nicely breaded and plenty of it; and the sauce, rich and not too much of it, all make for a winning combination. But you know what makes it really incredible to me? The cheese. They use fresh mozzarella on it, which, I don’t know, call me a Philistine or something, but I had never had before on a chicken parm wedge. Amazing!

Anyway, my food was sitting there, but Tillie was totally distracted by the people walking in and out and zipping by our table, and wasn’t really focusing on my carefully planned Cheerios and blueberry snack feast I prepared. She started staring at a couple of guys next to us who were on their lunch break and they gave her some attention. I asked the guys if they could play with her about 20 minutes or so, it would be appreciated! Surprisingly, they weren’t down with that but I did manage to establish a foothold in my sandwich and salad, which tasted as great as I imagined.

Since my little snack plan for Tillie wasn’t working quite like I planned, I had to go into my old-school bag of tricks. You guessed it: the old water from the straw! Plus, I had the basket my bread came in (which she managed to knock to the floor earlier while bread was still in it) and she played with that a while. Tillie did manage to get down some of the cereal and fruit before it was all said and done, and we polished off the excursion with the formula I brought along. I finished up and asked for the check, which was $11 for the salad, sandwich and a soda. While I was waiting for it to come, I did a little cleanup of the baby treats that made their way to the floor. I paid up and we headed off. On our way out, we said bye to our table neighbors and I thanked them for letting me get that all-too-crucial first bite in!

Graziella’s is spacious enough for strollers (there was another guy in there with a double model parked in place) and I’m telling you—you have to try this sandwich! Maybe I should’ve given Tillie some of it instead of the Cheerios!