I’ve followed Rich Labriola and his merry band of breadheads from his fledling artisan bread-baking days in Alsip, Ill., to the introduction of Danish and sweet rolls to his line, and now to his bakery and café in Oak Brook, Ill. I’m happy to say I knew him when, and helped spread the word that the crunchy, chewy texture of artisan bread does not mean it’s stale!
But artisan breads and sweet rolls are just the tip of the iceberg at his cavernous restaurant. A wood-fired brick oven cranks out Neapolitan-style and Old-World-style pizzas, there are fancy-schmancy fondant wedding cakes, cookies, macarons, pastries, plus breakfast (try the Ricotta Cannoli Pancakes), lunch and dinner.
A recent lunch of French onion soup with a baguette crostini and Gruyère cheese was so filling and delicious, I had to take half of my Maytag Blue Cheese Burger home. This monster Angus beef burger was mounded with Nueske smoked bacon, caramelized onions and Maytag blue cheese served on a pretzel bun with a small mountain of fries. And I got it just the way I like it — mediuim rare!
There’s a lot to love on the menu — other hot sandwiches besides burgers like steak sliders and foot-long grilled cheese, cold sandwiches, pasta dishes, soup-and-sandwich and soup-and-salad combos, and panini.
Amenities include chef specials Thursdays through Sundays, kids’ (11 and younger) breakfasts for $4.95 to $3.95 (includes 1 slice of bacon or sausage link or fruit cup) and kids’ meals for $4.95 (not including beverage). Beer and wine by the glass are served.
The bread bakery and pastry shop will set you to drooling. The almond croissants are to die for and the cookies by the pound, while a little pricey, are gorgeous and buttery-tasting. My first purchase of Italian cookies were stale and on a return visit, after relating my experience, a replacement was proferred without batting an eye.
If push came to shove, what I don’t like about Labriola Bakery Café is that you have to place your order at a counter and then it is brought to you. I miss having a server engage my tastebuds with descriptions of the offerings. But I guess it’s more efficient and less costly from a labor standpoint this way.
It’s a fun, busy place to be that hums with the rumblings of happy diners. There’s alfresco eating weather permitting, and Oak Brook shopping malls are a hop, skip and jump away. Sign up for the Labriiola email newsletter for the latest news and members-only coupons.
Labriola Bakery Café and Neapolitan Pizzeria
Address: 3021 Butterfield Road, Oak Brook Promenade, Oak Brook, IL 60523
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays