Best Italian restaurants in Chicago
Regional Piedmontese cuisine is the focus at this tiny Logan Square storefront, which means the menu is dotted with truffles, cream and eggy handmade pastas. The space is ideal for date night and practically begs you to order a bottle of wine for the table from the excellently curated list. The plin, miniature agnolotti filled with cheese, are beautiful and light; the beef tartare is impeccably seasoned; and the prosciutto-wrapped rabbit loin is smothered in truffle jus. In case you needed further proof that Osteria Langhe reigns supreme, order the creamy panna cotta to finish the evening.
Want to skip rent this month and have the best Italian fine dining experience in town? Splurge here. Chef-partner Tony Mantuano and executive chef Joe Flamm (who recently won the 15th season of Top Chef) offer five- and eight-course tasting menus that shift with the seasons as well as an a la carte option. It'd be a mistake to forgo the pasta here; the risotto and gnocchi are foolproof bets, but we're especially fond of the delicate, hand-pinched tortelloni.
Top Chef alum Sarah Grueneberg has perfected the art of house-made pasta—among many other things. Her West Loop restaurant is delightfully relaxed and immersive, allowing diners at the bar a great view of the kitchen’s noodle-making station. Anything that comes from this portion of the dining room is bound to be delicious, but we’re also quite fond of Grueneberg’s piattini, or small plates, with favorites like the beautiful burrata e ham and Oma’s Green Mountain salad, which is piled high with pea tendrils, avocado and crunchy veggies.
It’s okay to splash a little red sauce on the butcher-paper-topped tables in this raucous storefront. Old friends and big families admire the autographed celebrity photos and shots of the owner’s family tacked to the frescoed walls. Smiling waiters squeeze between tables juggling huge plates of eggplant parmigiana and bottles of decent Italian red. Order any of the appropriately garlicky pastas and a plate of escarole and beans for the table; the leftovers will warm up just fine tomorrow.
We admittedly frequent il Porcellino for its stellar happy hour, which features $5 glasses of wine and $8 negronis daily from 4 to 6pm. But after a few drinks, we're ready to order something hearty from the dinner menu. No-fail Italian favorites include the lemony roasted artichoke, a heaping bowl of rigatoni alla vodka, the massive baked burrata lasagna and the chicken marsala.
If you want to dine at Spiaggia but just can’t foot the bill, your solution is this adjacent sibling café. The ingredients come from the same kitchen, so they’re just as impeccable, and the attention to regional Italian tradition is just as detailed. The room is more casual, prices are lower, and service is less formal, making it a perfect lunch escape from Mag Mile shopping. Dig into the loaded charcuterie board or warm up with a hearty helping of ribollita soup.
This old-school favorite opened its doors in the Heart of Italy neighborhood in 1933, which almost explains the faded travel posters and weary saloon decor. But the kitchen is far from tired, going beyond typical pastas and parmigianas to specialize in rustic dishes from Siena. Listed between the chicken Vesuvio and the stuffed shells are a rich ravioli filled with porcini mushrooms and a spirited rendition of penne alla puttanesca. Stop at the bar for a digestif with the locals on your way out.
Italian goes glitzy at Gold Coast's Nico Osteria, a One Off Hospitality property located on the ground floor of the Thompson Chicago. Start with an order of pristine crudo or the wagyu ribeye tartare before digging into a bowl of rigatoni that's smothered in some of the city's best bolognese. There are plenty of mains to choose from, but you can't go wrong with seafood—especially if you're ordering the arctic char or whole salt-roasted branzino.
A collaboration between celebrity couple Giuliana and Bill Rancic and Chicago restaurateurs R.J., Jerrod and Molly Melman, RPM Italian is the kind of place that's practically made for an anniversary dinner or a birthday celebration. Start with orders of the prime beef meatballs and fritto misto before jumping into the house-made pastas (you can't go wrong with the creamy carbonara). The impressive gluten-free menu still offers plenty of options, including six pasta dishes crafted using gluten-free fettuccine. When dessert rolls around, find room for the light and refreshing Amalfi lemon cake.
When summer rolls around, the plant-lined sidewalk patio at Formento's is hopping from brunch through dinner—and for good reason. The West Loop restaurants from B Hospitality Co. offers well-executed takes on classic Italian-American dishes, like wood-grilled octopus, lobster-studded squid ink pasta and brick chicken with garlic confit. Return on Sunday for brunch: The lemon-ricotta pancakes are out of this world.
Situated just off of one of Chicago's busier intersections, Piccolo Sogno is a tucked-away oasis offering tried-and-true Italian delicacies. If you visit just once this year, make your reservation during the summer months and request a table on the greenery-lined, fenced-off patio out back. In the sunshine, the prosciutto and fresh melon tastes sweeter, the gnocchi softer and the pizzas fresher. We can't explain it.
One of the best Italian restaurants in town isn’t tucked away on some corner in Little Italy. Surprisingly, it’s smack-dab in vanilla Lincoln Park. Chef Riccardo Michi’s family founded the Bice restaurant empire in Milan, so he knows a thing or two about regional Italian food. Don’t miss the orecchiette with wild-boar sausage, garlicky rapini and pecorino cheese or the rack of lamb. Become a regular and the Italian waiters might cap off your meal with a slice of ricotta cheesecake.
Located on the outskirts of the West Loop, this Italian institution is known for its meatball salad, Sunday pork gravy and brick chicken. Yeah, it's fair to say that tradition runs deep here. Though it's not as shiny as its surrounding counterparts, Viaggio is the neighborhood's established gem that needn't brag on itself.
Don’t waste your time searching for the crudo and antipasto. This is Bridgeport, where locals eat thick, roasted pork chops (how one person could eat the order of two is beyond us) and big bowls of penne tossed with spicy pesto, capers and succulent nibs of prosciutto. If you must, temper your order with a light insalata, like the roasted beet salad or the super-fresh caprese.
Going Italian for dinner doesn't mean committing to one heaping bowl of pasta. If you're looking to nibble on a bit of everything, Davanti Enoteca offers a delectable menu full of shareable treats. Gather your nearest and dearest and order the Pizza D.O.C. (tomatoes, hand-pulled mozzarella and basil), an order of ricotta and honeycomb toast, cacio e pepe and the prosciutto-veal meatballs. Buon appetito.
As Lincoln Park’s go-to Italian joint for all occasions—witness the awkward Internet date in one corner, the anniversary celebration in another—it’s easy to get the impression that people are coming here out of habit. In fact, the throngs of people are attracted to the warm, homey room and the housemade pastas like spaghetti with veal meatballs and fennel-flecked Italian sausage, or sumptuous gnocchi paired with a lively pesto sauce. They’re so tasty you’ll realize that the locals’ habit is for good reason.
Spending the night hopping through Italian Village's three restaurants is a Chicago rite of passage. Have a glass of wine at Vivere before grabbing dinner at the Village, where you can slurp minestrone soup and twirl fettuccine alfredo. End the evening with a nightcap at the bar in La Cantina. The building's wine cellar is stocked with more than 30,000 bottles, so you're bound to find a new Italian vino to love.
This tiny Gold Coast restaurant makes the perfect backdrop for date night. But after one look at the menu, you'll realize that the cutesy interior is backed up by fantastic fare. Start with a plate of artisanal cheese and charcuterie before diving into the soul-warming minestrone, heirloom tomato salad with burrata, decadent lobster ravioli and rustic hand-stretched pizzas. Psst: The best way to try the outstanding wine selection is through one of five flights for $16 each.
This always-hopping River North dining room is decked out with reclaimed wood and subway tiles, vintage mirrors and mismatched chairs. Everything on the menu is built to share, so stock your table with pancetta-wrapped dates, veal meatballs, cavatelli topped with fresh ricotta, asparagus risotto and a few liters of vino.
Four Spiaggia alums opened this Mediterranean spot, and in doing so have single-handedly made Berwyn a dining destination. Here, heirloom beets are sprinkled with pistachios and microgreens, crackly flatbreads are covered in rapini and chili-speckled honey, and a seasonal fruit crumble is the perfect dessert. Best of all are the handmade pastas, which are as elegant as any in the city. Yet the fact that they’re at a humble neighborhood trattoria in Berwyn makes them taste even better.
What’s not to like about this little Andersonville restaurant? It’s cute, it’s bustling, service is helpful, and the food borders between good and great. Year-round don’t-miss items include the tender, lemon-kissed grilled octopus; the salumi plate; and the value-packed antipasti platter. Like any good trattoria, Anteprima rotates much of the menu according to season, but house-made pastas prove as perfect with rabbit ragù in cold weather as they do with bright fava beans and ricotta in spring. In warm weather, seek out the secluded back patio.
Once, a chimney crashed through the ceiling and obliterated the kitchen of this red-sauce stalwart. But Club Lago persevered, just as it has for decades. Despite a fairly recent renovation, the place looks exactly the same as always, and it's even staffed by many of the same servers who have been there for years. So follow suit and regress to old habits: massive portions of lasagna, soft roast beef on white bread, carafes of watery Chianti and—this is crucial—some pasta with Lago’s meat sauce.