This city is home to one of the largest populations of Italian-Americans in the U.S., which helps explain why we're spoiled rotten with amazing Italian restaurants in Chicago. Our favorites range from old-school joints that still serve grandma's secret Sunday sauce to some of the swankiest new restaurants in Chicago. But they all have a few things in common: fantastic housemade pastas, red-heavy wine lists 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 check out the best Italian restaurants in Chicago.
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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.
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.
If you're hankering for modern, ritzy Italian cooking and you don't mind paying Michelin-star prices, look no further than Spiaggia. Executive chef Eric Lees oversees the kitchen here, offering diners two tasting menus (five or eight courses) as well as an à la carte lineup, with choices like pheasant-studded cavatelli and a dry-aged porterhouse with truffle hollandaise. Beverage director Rachael Lowe and her troop of expert sommeliers are always ready to help guests find praise-worthy pairings, with a lengthy list of impressive vinos available by the glass and bottle.
You might recognize the chef-owner at this always-packed 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. If you can, snag a seat at the bar, where the kitchen's noodle-making station is on full display. 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.
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 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.
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.
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 packed, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When summer rolls around, the plant-lined sidewalk patio in front of this West Loop restaurant is packed with 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.
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.
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 for $16 each.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tradition runs deep at this old-school 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. As an added bonus, Viaggio's proximity to the United Center makes it a safe bet for a pre-game glass of wine and appetizers.
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.
Four Spiaggia vets 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.
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.
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 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.