It's hard to argue against the original Scott Harris invention that spawned the Francesca empire. The food is dependably great, the atmosphere lively and the prices right. I probably only make it to Mia once a year, but that's only because I'm a little different and need to try new places. More normal people that live so close to a culinary staple that is Mia Francesca likely go here once a month, and I envy them (especially in summer).
This visit occurred over Thanksgiving weekend after going to the movies down the street. We had a lateish reservation but the place was still packed (and quite loud with the soundtrack). Our starter was a delicious pizza special. My memory and picture suggest it had garlic, arugula, garlic, shaved Parmesan, olive oil, truffle oil and other cheeses. It was the perfect way to start an Italian dinner and the perfect size to avoid ruining our appetite. The ingredients were fresh and it arrived quickly.
Erica and I shared a caesar salad to start, with standard tastiness but with the addition of grilled red peppers. Kind of a weird texture and flavor to throw into a classic salad. Erica was not a huge fan. I liked the salad, including the peppers, though it was different. Continuing with the sharing theme, we ordered a rigatoni with lots of vegetables in a light tomato sauce. Again, I liked the dish more than Erica. The vegetables were well seasoned, which made for a great combination with fresh pasta and tasty shaved cheese. It doesn't take much to please me with pasta but it still has to taste great - something Francesca does extremely well for the price ($12.99).
At the end of the day, I agree with 460 people on Urbanspoon that Mia Francesca's is one of the best restaurants in Chicago (#19 on their list). I wouldn't say it's 4 Star dining, but it's not supposed to be. They do a great job of provided great Italian food in a fun, casual, neighborhood setting at affordable prices (and affordable wine list too). Our service was solid, and the only critique was that they like to play dance/pop music throughout the restaurant at high levels (contrary to typical romantic Italian spots). Mia remains a solid choice for local Italian, especially when the patio is open for summer.