I’ve made the decision to try to get to all of the old-line Italian restaurants in Des Moines. I thought I knew the whole list until the Feb/March/April DSM Magazine posted a list of top restaurants in Des Moines and gave a short summary of what Chuck’s offered. I knew right then that I would have to check it out. I’ve probably driven by Chuck’s a hundred times or more and never had any idea it had been established by the Bisignano family or that it served authentic Calabrese-style entrees. I assumed that it was a Highland Park iceberg lettuce steak joint. After all, its not on the south or east side, so why would it be an Italian restaurant? Shows how much I know. According to Chuck’s website, http://chucksdesmoines.com, the restaurant was opened by the Bisignagano family in 1956. There is a good Des Moines Register article by Marc Hansen that provides some background on the place. The place features a number of separate dining rooms and a well-stocked bar.
The prices are incredibly low for the quality of food that is sold, though this is not a white tablecloth type of establishment (at least not the dining room we were in). I had the cavatelli with a large meatball. The cavatelli was, as advertised, scratch-made and it was absolutely fantastic. The pasta was thick and chewy, though in a good way. It was not the slimy thin stuff that you get in a box. I’d say that it is the best standard cavatelli I’ve had in a long time. The sauce was also prepared well and the meatball was, well, it was an Italian meatball. I also tried the ravioli and it, too, featured hand-made pasta, though it was prepared very thinly with a large amount of filling.
Service was a bit spotty in our particular dining room on a fairly busy night. Our service was friendly and competent, though I had to remind the waiter of one missed item (wine). In a subsequent visit we had no problem with service. The wine list is short, but has some solid selections and some nice Italian wines. My cocktail was served quickly (a “new style” Old Fashioned made with an orange slice, two cherries, Templeton Rye and, I believe, soda or tonic water in addition to the sugar and bitters). This is the first bar to offer Templeton Rye in a long time. (Better their Templeton Rye than my diminishing stock of Batch 2). The other diners in my room were having some trouble getting service, but they raved about the food anyway.
The cannoli that I tried for dessert was bigger and cheesier than, say the cannoli at Gusto.
A dinner for two cost about $55 and included wine, a cocktail, two entrees and one dessert. You can’t beat that price point for scratch-made authentic Calabrese-style Italian food, though you do have to put up with paper napkins and placemats.
In my second visit we were ending our dinner just as a band was setting up. I understand that Chucks is one of the best places to take in live music during the late dinner hour. I can also add that the bar appears to be well-stocked with all of the necessary ingredients for the usual drinks and cocktails.
Weekdays 4:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Weekends 4:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Thursday 6:30 – 9:30 pm
Friday and Saturday 7:30 – 10:30 pm
3610 6th Ave
Des Moines, Iowa