Yeah, we know that Easter (April 8) is one of most widely observed Christian holidays in the world. But we gotta admit, we're mostly psyched about digging into a spread of must-haves like roasted lamb, smoked ham and hard-boiled eggs. This year, skip the ho-hum hotel buffet and head to these international spots for authentic Easter eats.
Greece: Venus Greek-Cypriot Cuisine
Greektown spot launches its Easter specials at midnight to accommodate the hungry throngs after midnight mass. Go for the prix-fixe menu of traditional fare like the symbolic red-dyed hard-boiled eggs, magiritsa (Easter lamb soup), roasted lamb, tsoureki (sweet bread), koulouria (cookie twist), plus a glass of wine for $28, or pick-and-choose the specials a la carte ($4.50-$16.95). Plus, there's live Greek music from midnight to 3 a.m. If you're not the late-night type, Venus offers the specials from noon-11 p.m. Sunday. Reservations recommended.
Poland: Jolly Inn
Although the decor at this no-frills Dunning spot leans more toward everyday diner casual than Easter Sunday best, where else can you get an all-you-can-eat buffet of year-round faves like pierogi and kielbasa, plus Polish Easter classics such as zurek (white borsch soup), szynka (ham) and babka (Easter bread) for $9.95? Order by April 3 and get your Easter fare for carryout. The traditional Easter plate, which includes Polish sausage, bacon, smoked ham, eggs, chrzan (horseradish) and buraczki (red beets) will set you back $35.50 and serves 10.
Italy: Coco Pazzo
We like the well-spaced tables and the fact that the bustling open kitchen is seen more than heard at this classy River North staple. For Easter, Chef Tony Priolo is featuring a special a la carte menu in addition to the regular menu. Selections include lamb, artichoke and rosemary ragu tossed with pappardelle ($18); spit-roasted pork leg with mashed potatoes, rapini and a herb reduction ($24); and sacrapantina, a rum-soaked sponge cake layered with whipped cream, amaretti (macaroon) cookies, dark chocolate shavings ($8). Reservations recommended.
Why do we love this chalet-like Norridge spot? What's not to love about year-round Christmas lights, live music and 15 German draft beers? The a la carte Easter menu includes roasted duckling with Bing cherry sauce ($22.95), baked Bavarian ham with champagne-fruit sauce ($19.95), and sauerbraten with red cabbage and spaetzle ($19.95). Live German music from noon-5:30 p.m. Reservations required.
Mexico and South America: Cuatro
Chef Edie Jiminez covers all the Easter bases with his Nuevo Latino a la carte specials. Celebrate with Mexican choices such as pozole de pernil, a hearty pork and hominy stew ($9); or vuelve la vida--literally, "come back to life"--a spicy ceviche of shrimp, calamari and tuna with pico de gallo and Acapulco-style cocktail sauce ($12). For dessert, try the Argentinean pastel de chocolate, a dark chocolate mousse with sweet-corn ice cream ($12). Reservations recommended.
France: Bistrot Margot
This intimate Art Nouveau-inspired Old Town bistro, which usually is packed with Francophiles and friends, skips the regular fare and offers a three-course prix-fixe brunch ($21.95) for the post-mass crowd and a three-course dinner menu ($29.95) for those who stretched their Saturday soirees into the wee hours. Look for choices such as oven-roasted leg of lamb with roasted red potatoes and mint-mustard sauce; honey-baked ham with sweet potato gratin and whole grain mustard sauce; and a terrine of dark chocolate laced with raspberry. Reservations recommended.
Terri Mooney is a metromix special contributor.