Chicago is a city with great cultural diversity as this city has communities with a heritage linked to countries from across the globe. This city has a large Italian-American community, so it is little wonder that there is a vast array of Italian restaurants in this city or that Italian food is one of the most popular cuisines. Within this group of restaurants, you will find various dining experiences and styles of cuisine. For example, there are fine dining Italian establishments, cozy Italian steakhouses, lively pizzerias, eateries with a homely vibe that gives you the impression that an Italian Mama has prepared your meal.Regardless of the type of food or dining experience you want, you will find an Italian restaurant to meet your needs in this city. If you are a fan of Italian food, here are the 20 best Italian restaurants in Chicago.
20. The Rosebud
A popular option in Little Italy is The Rosebud, which is along West Taylor Street. Two of the main reasons why the locals love this eatery so much is the large portions and the great atmosphere. Some people also like the historic appearance of the building that houses this restaurant. The menu consists of Italian classics, such as spaghetti and meatballs, chicken Vesuvio, and baked clams.
19. Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap
Head down W Vernon Park Pl, and you will find Tufano’s Vernon Park Trap. This well-established and family-owned restaurant has been open since 1931. Due to this being a longstanding business, it has had time to develop an excellent reputation and to grow a loyal group of returning customers in the local neighborhood. The restaurant is hardly changed in recent decades, so it retains the look of a traditional Italian restaurant. It is known for serving hearty portions of Italian favorites, such as lemon chicken Vesuvio, eggplant parm, and various dishes with red sauce. In 2008, the restaurant was honored as one of ‘America’s Classics’ by the James Beard Foundation. It is worth noting that this is a cash-only restaurant.
18. Italian Village
Italian Village is actually three Italian restaurants in one, each of which offers different food and has a unique style. In the basement, La Cantina is styled like a cozy wine cellar. On the ground floor, Vivere has a theatrical theme and an upscale setting. Chicagoans is the restaurant occupying the top floor, and this has a casual ambiance and a menu featuring regional Italian classics. Italian Village is one of the oldest institutions in Chicago, and it is located on West Monroe Street.
Formento’s is an old-school Italian with a classic look with white tablecloths and big leather booths. The menu reflects the look of the restaurant as it serves Italian-American staples. Some typical examples of the dishes on this menu include bone-in veal parmesan, bucatini carbonara, and canestri in pork neck gravy. You will find this Italian restaurant on West Randolph Street in the West Loop area.
16. La Scarola
Most famous for its mouthwatering red sauce, La Scarola serves up Italian food in the traditional style. This small restaurant has walls sporting photographs of celebrities, and it provides a welcoming and intimate environment for dining. The portions are large, so families and groups of diners often opt to share a couple of dishes between them. Some of the highlights of the menu include pasta e Fagioli, veal chops, eggplant parmesan. Penne all vodka, and escarole and beans.
15. Topo Gigio
Located on North Wells Street, Topo Gigio is a favorite amongst those who favor Tuscan-style cuisine. This Old Town restaurant has traditional Italian charm, and the menu offers something for everyone. Some examples of the dishes on the menu include eggplant parmesan, baked clams, veal chops, and traditional tiramisu. There is the option for alfresco dining as there is a nice patio area with seating. This is even an option in the colder months as there are patio heaters to keep the space nice and warm.
Pisolino has a contemporary, industrial-chic dining room that gives the impression you are dining in a classy joint, but there is a definite casual vibe to this eatery, and guests simply come as they are. Chef James De Marte creates some of the best thin-crust pizzas you will eat anywhere in Chicago, and there is also an extensive list of pasta dishes from which you can choose. To accompany any of the crowd-pleasing dishes, you can choose a drink from the extensive wine list.
13. Bar Roma
According to Eater, one of the best places for Italian cuisine fans to dine is at Bar Roma. Although this is a bright and modern restaurant, it is set within a historic building that is more than a century old. The specialty at Bar Roma is polpette, and this dish is available in beef, pork, chicken, and ‘impossible meat’ varieties. Many people order the polpettes as a side dish to accompany one of the pasta dishes on the menu.
12. Nico Osteria
If you are a seafood enthusiast and a fan of Italian cuisine, then one of the top options in Chicago is Nico Osteria. This hotel is set within the Thompson hotel, and it boasts a seafood-centric menu of traditional Italian dishes with a modern twist. Although the focus of the menu is seafood, there are also meat and vegetarian options available. Some of the most popular dishes on the menu include the lobster spaghetti and the octopus carpaccio. This restaurant is also known for the gelato and its inventive cocktail menu.
11. Riccardo Trattoria
Various regional Italian dishes are served at Riccardo Trattoria in Lincoln Park. This is an unpretentious restaurant that has a traditional Italian vibe that provides a comfortable ambiance for casual dining. This venue became so popular with the locals that the owners opened up a wine bar, Riccardo Enoteca, right across the street from the restaurant. Many people enjoy a classic Italian in the restaurant before heading over to the wine bar to hang out.
A fantastic place for dining out in a group is Quartino. This is a bi-level restaurant in the River North district of Chicago. The reason this restaurant is so good for group dining is that the menu consists of small sharing plates rather than large, individual portions. Everyone in your party can select a different dish from the menu and then everyone gets to sample something different when the food is shared. Some examples of the small plates include fried calamari, veal meatball sliders, meat or cheese platters, penne alla vodka, zeppole, and braised pork-stuffed ravioli.
9. Piccolo Sogno
One of the best features of this restaurant is the outdoor patio set in a lush garden, as this gives diners the option for alfresco dining in beautiful surroundings. If the weather is not good enough to dine outdoors, the dining room is equally inviting. The restaurant’s signature dish is ravioli stuffed with four kinds of cheese, drizzled in butter and a Marsala glaze, and topped with Parmesan curls and pine nuts. Other popular options are the braised beef short ribs, the seafood spaghetti, the wild boar ragu, and the wood-fired pizzas. A further reason to visit is to sample some of the wines on the extensive all-Italian wine list.
8. Coco Pazzo
Fans of Tuscan cuisine should head to Coco Plazo, as creative Tuscan plates are the specialty of this restaurant in River North. This eatery, which has been open since the 1990s, has a menu of both classic and contemporary Italian dishes. There are also steaks that are sliced tableside. There is also an excellent dessert menu and an extensive wine list, so this is a good all-round option.
Thrillist lists Bruna’s as one of the top Italian restaurants in Chicago. This restaurant first opened in 1933 during the Prohibition, and there is still a sense of the restaurant’s history evident in its dining room. It is popular amongst the locals because of the great ambiance and the hearty portions. Located in the Pilsen/ Little Village area of Chicago on Oakley Avenue, this restaurant has a diverse menu featuring Italian favorites such as veal Limone and tiramisu. The best time to visit is on a Sunday when they serve traditional roast chicken.
6. Il Porcellino
The busiest time to visit Piccolo Sogno is during its happy hours when the drinks and some meals are reduced, and there is a lively atmosphere in the restaurant. These happy hours take place between 4 pm and 6 pm daily. Il Porcellino is known for its hearty portions, and some of the top dishes on the menu are the chicken marsala, burrata lasagne, and lemon roasted artichoke. You will find this restaurant in the River North area.
If you are dining out in the Wicker Park district of Chicago, then the top option for Italian cuisine enthusiasts is Tortello. Dario Monni is the owner of this counter-serve restaurant, which is famous for its authentic Italian pasta. One of the best dishes on the menu is the Tortelli, which is pasta stuffed with burrata and then topped with sage brown butter and toasted hazelnuts. Make sure you save room for the dessert as the tiramisu is one of the best in Chicago.
This eatery in West Loop is always jam-packed as it has an excellent reputation for the quality of the food and for its ambiance. Sarah Grueneberg is the chef leading the kitchen, and she is famous for her pasta-making skills. You may recognize her name as she appeared in the ninth season of ‘Top Chef’, finishing in the second position. If you sit at the bar in this restaurant, you can see straight through the kitchen to the noodle preparation area. Diners can add a little truffle to any dish on the menu for a small fee. The restaurant is known for the freshly made pasta, and many dishes are served family-style. One of the most popular options on the menu is the family-sized ragu, which consists of fusilli, meatballs, sausage, and pork shank. The restaurant became even more popular when Grueneberg won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Great Lakes Region in 2017.
There is a modern approach to the cooking of traditional Italian favorites at Spiaggia. This is one of the pricier Italian restaurants in the city, but fans of this fine-dining eatery say that it is worth the cost to enjoy the quality of the meals. At the helm of this Italian restaurant is executive chef Eric Lees. There are two tasting menus; one with five courses and the other with eight. There is the option to include wine pairings with your meal as there are experienced sommeliers on hand to help you with your wine choices.
2. Sapori Trattoria
Located in the Lincoln Park district of Chicago, this is a neighborhood favorite amongst the locals. The warm atmosphere of this restaurant is ideal for both romantic dinners and for celebratory occasions. The homemade pasta is served with a variety of flavorsome ingredients, with some menu items including spaghetti with veal meatballs, pasta with fennel Italian sausage, and gnocchi with pesto sauce.
1. Osteria Langhe
According to Time Out, the best Italian restaurant in Chicago is Osteria Langhe. The menu at this restaurant focuses on the regional cuisine of the Piedmont region of Italy. All the pasta served at Osteria Langhe is handmade, and there are some very rich dishes on the menu that include ingredients such as eggs, cream, and truffles. Some of the best options on the menu are the beef tartare and the prosciutto-wrapped rabbit loin. This restaurant has an excellent wine list of carefully curated wines, so you should find the perfect wine to accompany your meal.
Written by Dana Hanson
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