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The 23 best Italian restaurants in Chicago

Sip wine and twirl spaghetti at the most beloved Italian restaurants in Chicago

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen
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Chicago is home to one of the largest populations of Italian-Americans in the country, which helps explain why we're spoiled rotten with amazing Italian restaurants in Chicago. Our top picks range from iconic old-school haunts to splashy new restaurants in Chicago, but they all have a few things in common: stellar wine lists, plenty of pasta and some of the friendliest servers in town. As an added bonus, these Italian eateries double as some of the most romantic restaurants in Chicago, thanks to shareable plates and candlelit tables. Order a glass of chianti, pick a pasta course and enjoy the best Italian restaurants in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best restaurants in Chicago

The best of the city under one roof

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • West Loop

After more than a decade spent working in acclaimed restaurants throughout Italy, chef James De Marte returned to Chicago to open his own kitchen in Avondale with the help of event planner Rachel De Marte. Prepare to have your tastebuds transported to Venice and Verona as you dig into hearty dishes that exemplify the simple-yet-robust flavors of traditional Italian cooking. Yes, Pisolino is Italian for “nap,” but you definitely shouldn’t sleep on any of chef De Marte’s handmade pastas.

Best Italian restaurants in Chicago

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Logan Square
  • price 2 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

As Lincoln Park’s go-to Italian joint for all occasions—whether it be a first date or an anniversary celebration—it’s easy to get the impression that people are coming here out of habit. In fact, Chicagoans 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • West Loop
  • price 2 of 4

You might recognize the chef-owner at this West Loop eatery: Sarah Grueneberg finished in second place on Top Chef's ninth season. She's secured a top spot in pasta-loving Chicagoans' hearts, too, with her beautiful menu of Italian treats. You mustn't skip the hand-cut pappardelle, which is served with rich pork sauce, marinated sweet peppers and a heavy hand of parmesan. Add fresh-shaved black truffles to any dish for an additional but worth-it fee.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Wicker Park

There are few things in this world that taste better than authentic Italian pasta that's made by hand. Dario Monni, the owner of this sweet counter-service restaurant in Wicker Park, understands that, and his upbringing in Italy only adds to the legitimacy of this operation. Buy hand-crafted noodles by the pound or stay awhile and luxuriate over a plate of namesake tortelli, which are stuffed with creamy burrata and topped with brown butter, sage and crunchy toasted hazelnuts. Monni's uses his grandmother's tiramisu recipe, making it a must-try dessert.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

The soft focaccia and fruity olive oil delivered to your table at this popular River North mainstay are good indicators of what’s to come. Start with some antipasto—an assortment of cured meats, aged cheeses and herb-cured olives—to whet your appetite. From there, pair a pasta dish (we vote gnocchetti) with a main (the salmon is always divine).

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Wicker Park
  • price 2 of 4

The nearby condo dwellers with kids in tow may be a different crowd than the Polish regulars who once frequented this joint post-Prohibition, but the owners have gone out of their way to restore the original cocktail-culture look of the ’50s. The place is always buzzing, thanks to a dependable, old-school, family-style Italian menu with standouts like grilled calamari, chicken Vesuvio, and escarole with sausage and beans. But if you’re kidphobic, go late for the lounge vibe of Sinatra standards and signature martinis.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • River West/West Town
  • price 2 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Douglas

When only a proper Italian feast will do, look no further than this Bronzeville staple, helmed by owner Peytyn Willborn-Mayes. Come summertime, you can dine under the stars on the sizable outdoor terrace Indulge in classic Italian eats, like calamari fritti and chicken alfredo, alongside some knockout seafood plates, including the fan-favorite fried catfish.

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  • Restaurants
  • West Loop

Gibsons Restaurant Group goes Italian with this ritzy waterfront property that's ideal for those nights when someone else is picking up the tab. Because it's Gibsons, the menu is crowded with steaks and seafood, but there are also some fantastic antipasti offerings (we daydream about the arancini) and pasta courses to be had. Though it's a splurge, the 7-year aged risotto with mushrooms and black truffles is worth every penny.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • River West/West Town
  • price 2 of 4

Situated just off of one of Chicago's busiest 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 warmer 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

A culinary 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 expense-account spending. 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 flour-free fettuccine. When dessert rolls around, find room for the light and refreshing Amalfi lemon cake.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Old Town
  • price 1 of 4

Upon entering this Old Town stalwart, you'll get the feeling that many people have enjoyed special moments at this time-worn restaurant. It's true: For more than 25 years, Topo Gigio has helped diners celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and Friday nights over heaping plates of rigatoni, seafood-studded risotto and a mean veal saltimbocca. Celebration or not, you shouldn't sign the check without a bowl of the dream house-made tiramisu.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • West Loop

When summer rolls around, the plant-lined sidewalk patio in front of this West Loop restaurant is populated by neighborhood folk sipping prosecco and piling prosciutto atop country bread. The interior of Formento's offers a different vibe entirely, with dim lighting, leather banquettes and tons of exposed brick. Take your pick, then tuck into well-executed takes on classic Italian-American dishes, like tempura-fried calamari, brick chicken and grilled artichokes.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Gold Coast
  • price 1 of 4

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 tomato-basil bisque, spicy baked shrimp capellini and rustic hand-stretched pizzas. Psst: The best way to try the outstanding wine selection is through one of five flights.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Loop

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Logan Square

While traveling through Rome several years ago, Aldo Zaninotto found himself utterly obsessed with Testaccio, a neighborhood south of the city center. Zaninotto, who owns Chicago's Osteria Langhe, couldn't get enough of the area's diverse restaurants, historical ties and fantastic art scene. After several more trips, he couldn't help but draw parallels between the Roman neighborhood and Chicago's own Logan Square. Now he's connecting the two with a restaurant in the former Quiote space that spotlights healthy fare cooked in a wood-burning oven. Guests can sample classic Italian dishes alongside modern interpretations—with a robust wine list to match (when in Rome, right?).

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

We admittedly frequent il Porcellino for its stellar Negroni menu, which includes four twists on the classic that incorporate rum, Fernet-Branca and prosecco. 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 tried-and-true chicken marsala.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Armour Square
  • price 2 of 4

Don’t waste your time searching the menu for the crudo and truffles. 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

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 fettuccine aragosta, a treasure trove of noodles, lobster tail, scampi meat and spicy sauce. Become a regular and the waiters might cap off your meal with chocolate-dipped profiteroles.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Lower West Side
  • price 2 of 4

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. Ask for a digestif with the check.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • West Loop
  • price 2 of 4

Tradition runs deep at this old-school, family-owned Italian joint located on the outskirts of the West Loop. That means massive servings of tried-and-true classics like rigatoni smothered in Sunday pork gravy and chicken marsala dripping in tender, earthy mushrooms. It's a great place to go when you're counting on leftovers for lunch the next day.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • River North
  • price 1 of 4

Despite its sprawling, multi-level dining room, this River North mainstay is always stuffed to the gills. Most of the dishes on the lengthy menu are designed to be shared, so load up your table with polenta fries, veal meatball sliders, asparagus risotto and steamed clams. The approachable price tags make it all too easy to upgrade to a half-litre of wine.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Andersonville
  • price 2 of 4

What’s not to like about this affable 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 lemon-kissed grilled octopus 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.

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