Monday, February 11, 2008


Nildo Bernardi purchased a beer parlor, presently known as Mona's Italian Restaurant, in Toluca, Illinois in 1933.
Over the years, Mona's has evolved into a famous 250+ seat restaurant.
Three generations of Bernardi's are now in the restaurant business.
We heard that Mona's and Capponi's in Toluca were celebrating their 75 anniversary in February.
StfRon used to have lunch at Mona's every Sunday after church when he was a wee lad, so that's where we headed last Saturday night.
I especially love their old neon sign out front.
On this cold, blustery night, we entered through the bar, where StfRon was not allowed as a kid.
The decor in the lounge is quite nicely vintage, with a white marble look to the tables and bar top, vinyl booths and barstools with wooden backs. The rat pack tunes complete the feel.
The restaurant was bustling at 5:00, and there were several large group tables being set up. We're talking tables of 12 and 20.
We were seated in one of the back dining rooms, which has a neat stone fireplace along one wall. The walls are covered in nicely darkened paneling with a nice scalloped wood trim at the ceiling. You can't find trim like this at Lowe's.
In the dining room, we were a little disappointed to not hear the same tunes from the bar being piped over the sound system, but there was some lighter music playing.
Looking around, there were several older patrons dining with kids and friends, who have probably been coming to Mona's for decades.
Our waitress, Teresa, was funny, cheerful and efficient throughout our meal.
We each went with meals we've had at Bernardi's many times over the years. I had the chicken Parmesan, an unbreaded, marinated chicken breast next to some spaghetti, the whole thing topped with their signature meat sauce and cheese, accompanied by two hearty slices of garlic toast.
StfRon had the 1/4 famous fried chicken, in their tempura-style batter, all white meat, a side salad topped with thousand island dressing and a side of tortellini with meat sauce. StfRon claims the dressing at Mona's still tastes like he remembers it as a kid, but that Bernardi's dressing is good, but not exactly the same.
I had some of their new dipping oil with the bread that was brought out when we were seated, mixed with a little Parmesan cheese. It was very good and nicely seasoned. You can buy the oil to take home, for about $5 a bottle.
Everything was very good.
We finished our meal by sharing a dish of peppermint ice cream, another treat from StfRon's youth at Mona's. The ice cream did not have the peppermint crunchy candy in it that we remembered, so we asked our waitress, and she said the ice cream used to be Prairie Farms, but now is Blue Bunny.
The restaurant does not accept reservations for groups less than 12.
75 years is something for a restaurant in central Illinois to be proud of. If Mona's keeps the food, service and atmosphere going the way they are, they should be around for many more decades.

202 N Main St
Toluca, IL 61369-9431

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