Lino’s Restaurant of Rockford: Old World Charm and Flavor

Restaurants that serve food made from Mom’s recipes are the best. That’s what you get at Lino’s Restaurant in Rockford, Illinois: Italian cooking made the way the family’s ancestors did it in Italy. Served with friendly conversation in a setting reminiscent of Italy, I felt like family or a good friend being welcomed into a home.

Lino’s is a Rockford staple, open since 1972, with three major expansions since then. Each of the rooms in the restaurant is decorated after a slice of Italy, including a Leaning Tower of Pisa in one room. According to a couple of customers I spoke with, Lino’s is the go-to place for family celebrations. Some dine there weekly.

Linos Interior 1Linos Interior 2Linos Interior 4Linos Tower of PisaEach day of the week Lino’s offers a different dine-in special. Although I was tempted by the baked lasagna, which another customer raved about, I went with the Friday cod special, which you can get either deep fried or baked.

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True to Italian mom cooking, you don’t leave the table hungry. The meal includes pasta or a potato, a salad, fresh warm bread, beverage and ice cream. I chose Lino’s Special Salad, greens topped with egg, Italian sausage and tomato and tossed with house-made Italian dressing.

Special SaladI also tried the minestrone soup, chock full of ditalini pasta and veggies and not overpowered with garlic.


Since I didn’t order an Italian entrée, I had mostaccioli as my side dish. Again, the rich tomato flavor was enhanced, not overpowered by garlic. (Can you tell I’m not a huge fan of garlic overuse?)

The fish was extraordinary. Both the deep-fried and the baked versions were tender and flaky, and the batter on the deep-fried was light. Lino’s doesn’t have a specific recipe for the batter, they just toss the ingredients together, the way you do when you’ve prepared a dish over and over again.

Fried cod and mostaccioli at Lino'sBaked CodWhen it came time for dessert, one of the servers mentioned she likes the combination of spumoni and rainbow sherbet, so I asked if I could have it that way, a half scoop of each. They were happy to comply, and I found that it’s true, you get a sort of Creamsicle taste, but with a variance on the flavors.

Rainbow sherbet and spumoniI couldn’t possibly eat all of the food that was served to me, but that’s what take-home boxes are for. I understand that Lino’s has been awarded the Readers’ Choice Award by the local newspaper for favorite Italian restaurant multiple times, as well as the award for favorite pizza. On my next visit I’ll have to try the pizza.

Lino’s Restaurant is open for dinner seven days a week and offers both dine-in and carry-out service. Check the web site for hours and menu.

Disclosure: My visit to Lino’s was hosted by the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Lino’s. However, opinions expressed in this post are my own.

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