When Patrick Leone moved with his family back to Riverside, his friends were glad to see him around town. His return to Riverside also had a big impact on the village with his purchase of the Village Center building or, as I and many longtime residents still refer to it as, the Henninger Building. 

While the old drug store building is just a memory, something very exciting will be happening there this week. On Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 4 p.m., the-much anticipated LaBarra Restaurant officially opened.

Thanks goes to Leone, his wife Mary and Rich Labriola who have brought LaBarra and another dimension in fine dining to Riverside. The restaurant comes with a good reputation from the Oak Brook location of the same name and the expertise which goes along with the Labriola name.

Saturday night we (Husband Joe, daughter Tina Duve, granddaughter Elena Duve and myself) attended a preview of LaBarra, a test run for all involved. We were cordially greeted and immediately seated; the place was full. 

Our server (many of the servers are local people) came to our table after we had been seated and took our drink orders, which allowed us time to peruse the menu which has a large selection. We selected items from all categories and shared them.

Our choices included roasted Brussels sprouts (or little cabbages as I called them as a child), antipasto salad, a pasta dish, another with polenta and a salmon entree. 

I was raised on Italian cooking, and my mother would be pleased with the polenta, which was smooth and creamy, not gritty. The pasta was cooked correctly and arrived as I like it — al dente, not hard or too soft. The salmon was flaky, not fishy or overcooked with a hint of lemon flavor. 

The wait staff appear to have been well-trained and not overwhelmed by the crowd the night we were there.

A few weeks ago when I was able to see the restaurant, I entered and hesitated, saying, “Am I in Riverside?” 

It was impressive and what I hope will be the continuing emergence of Riverside. LaBarra is located at 2 E. Burlington St. and is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

Congratulations to the Leones and Rich Labriola; I toast you with a glass of your finest wine and wish you much success.