Lake zurich’s franco’s pescheria is a small restaurant that’s big on flavor nutrition applebee’s

What looks like just a small fish market when you walk into franco’s pescheria in lake zurich is a bit deceiving. Keep walking and you’ll find a restaurant tucked in the back, complete with a raw oyster bar, two small dining rooms and a full bar. The menu is separated into kitchen entrees — which includes appetizers, main courses and fresh fish, all with an italian flair — and raw bar dishes, where guests will find oysters, shrimp and a few smoked fish plates.

We arrived in the middle of happy hour, but we didn’t want the discounted drinks. We wanted to experience franco’s oyster happy hour, when three types of oysters are half off for an after-work oyster extravaganza. We ordered a dozen. The oysters are shucked per table (or per seat at the raw bar) so it takes a minute to arrive, but it’s worth it when you can eat a freshly shucked oyster with all the brininess intact.

It’s the next best thing to eating it right out of the water.Happy hour they’re served with lemon, cocktail sauce and mignonette.

For our appetizers, we ordered a large selection: a BBQ oyster, a bloody mary oyster, the ceviche of the day, the italian shrimp salad, the tuna-stuffed deviled eggs, clam chowder and shrimp bisque.

The two oysters were the most unique combinations I’ve tried. For the BBQ oyster, it’s served hot with barbecue sauce and crispy fried onions. It was absolutely delicious. The warmth of the oyster seemed to make it all the more creamy, and the onions were a nice crunchy accompaniment to the tangy barbecue sauce. This was my favorite oyster of the night. On the bloody mary oyster, diners will find bloody mary mix, grapefruit vodka and some lemon juice. It was served cold and had a spicy kick from the bloody mary mix. I couldn’t taste much vodka, which I think was a good thing — it didn’t obscure the taste of the oyster itself or tarnish the tomato flavor from the mix.Bloody mary

Franco’s pescheria offers an oyster happy hour, during which diners can try the mexican-style oysters, top left, and bloody mary oysters or the BBQ oysters, top right, and franco’s oysters.

The ceviche of the day had salmon mixed with cilantro, avocado, red pepper, red onion and lime juice, and it was served with homemade tortilla chips. The chips were my favorite part, nice and crispy and obviously fresh. I was disappointed in the ceviche — I expected it to be raw, but the salmon was cooked, and it was too spicy. The italian shrimp salad, though, made up for that disappointment. It was packed full of large pieces of shrimp, mixed with red pepper, onion, vinegar and capers. It came served with crostini, so you could either eat it as a salad or as a shrimp bruschetta. Just make sure to share this one; it’s very filling.

Both of the soups were good but with a little something missing. The clam chowder was bland though the clam chunks were nice and large, while the shrimp bisque was richly seasoned but tasted more like creamy tomato soup than shrimp.Happy hour our wild-card appetizer was the tuna-stuffed deviled eggs. We weren’t sure what to expect but were pleased when it arrived. The eggs are stuffed with a mixture of smoked tuna, carrots, celery, onion, apples, cumin mayo and chives. The cumin flavor really came through, and the entire combination was surprisingly refreshing. I’d definitely order these again.

For our entrees, we ordered the seasonal risotto with scallops, the lobster mac and cheese, and fresh sea bass from the case up front, broiled with a lemon aioli sauce.

I can’t say enough good things about the sea bass. The waiter at the table next to us (our waitress appeared less and less as the night went on) explained to his guests that all the fish in the case was swimming 24 hours before it ended up on the plate, and that freshness was clear. The broiled fish tasted great, was light but filling at the same time, and flaked exactly like you’d expect pro-cooked fish to do.Bloody mary this fish was the star of the meal.

The lobster mac and cheese was quite good as well — lots of cheese, huge chunks of lobster and a deceptively large portion. The risotto, though, missed the mark. The scallops were too salty and the rice was overcooked.

All in all, I would definitely return to franco’s pescheria. The service was slow, but the food was worth it. I’ll be dreaming of that sea bass and the BBQ oyster until we can go back.