Formento's

Restaurants, Italian West Loop
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(7user reviews)
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
1/10
Photograph: Martha WilliamsShrimp scampi is on the menu at Formento's.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
2/10
Photograph: Martha WilliamsFormento's is an Italian restaurant in the West Loop.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
3/10
Photograph: Martha WilliamsBucatini is on the menu at Formento's.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
4/10
Photograph: Martha WilliamsFormento's is an Italian restaurant in the West Loop.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
5/10
Photograph: Martha WilliamsA relish tray is on the menu at Formento's.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
6/10
Photograph: Martha WilliamsFormento's is an Italian restaurant in the West Loop.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
7/10
Photograph: Martha WilliamsSpumoni is on the menu at Formento's.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
8/10
Photograph: Martha WilliamsFormento's is an Italian restaurant in the West Loop.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
9/10
Photograph: Martha WilliamsFormento's is an Italian restaurant in the West Loop.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
10/10
Photograph: Martha WilliamsFormento's is an Italian restaurant in the West Loop.

Old-school Italian food is new again at Formento's in the West Loop.

By now, I, and Chicago diners, should be tired of Italian restaurants. Over the past couple of years, we’ve eaten so many variations on the cuisine—Piedmontese at Osteria Langhe, seafood at Nico Osteria, Sicilian at Ceres’ Table—plus so many generic Italian spots that it almost feels like a reward to be handed a place like Formento’s. The restaurant, from B Hospitality Co. (The Bristol, Balena), offers takes on classic Italian-American dishes, like shrimp scampi, fettuccine alfredo and chicken Parmesan. It’s a comfortable restaurant—the dining room has an old-school vibe, with red leather banquette seating, white tablecloths and black and white photos affixed to the walls, while the long, curved bar and tin ceiling provide a dark, comfortable place to sip well-executed classics like Manhattans and Negronis. Our engaging server commented that the theme reminded her of the Italian supper clubs she grew up with in central Illinois, but the restaurant only claims to be “inspired by” the classics, so those expecting faithful, straightforward dishes won’t find them on Tony Quartaro’s menu.

And that’s not a bad thing, because it means dishes like the scampi, fat, sweet langoustines that are halved and topped with nubs of shrimp sausage and lemony breadcrumbs. I started scraping up the buttery garlic sauce with my fork, and a server brought us pieces of garlic focaccia to soak up every drop. Similarly great was Nonna’s relish tray, an array of tiny vegetable bites, including olives filled with creamy anchovy sauce; a briny cauliflower, carrot and fennel salad; and smoky cubes of eggplant.

Those dishes kicked off a mostly very solid meal. Skip the Caesar salad, a fine but unexciting version that I forgot about until I reviewed my photos, and the house wines (two reds and a white), which didn’t do much for my date and I. We should have listened to our servers, who tried to steer us toward other ones. But the pastas are good, like the bucatini all'amatriciana, made with ‘nudja, a spicy Calabrian sausage, and the canestri, which comes with a separate dish of well-balanced tomato sauce with dry links of fennel sausage, but with meatballs so light they’re almost fluffy. 

I’d be sated ending a meal at Formento’s after the pasta course, but if you’re plowing ahead with entrees, the juicy veal tomahawk, bathing in a marsala sauce, has a giant bone sticking out of one end—if you want people at surrounding tables to turn and stare at you, this dish will make that happen. The quail saltimbocca is less ostentatious but more creative. The meat is presented like a sausage, wrapped with prosciutto and served with smoked cauliflower and toasted hazelnuts for crunch. It’s terrific. If you need a side dish (you don’t, but just go for it), the fontina-creamed escarole with artichokes evokes both creamed spinach and spinach-artichoke dip.

By the time we reached Sarah Koechling’s dessert menu, there was no way I could handle the towering slice of chocolate cake. A slightly lighter option is the spumoni, layers of pistachio, chocolate and vanilla-raspberry ice creams, wrapped with pistachio cake and served with raspberry brandy jam and pistachios. But the sleeper hit of the dessert menu is the creamy, minty grasshopper, which Formento’s vastly improves by using BroVo Chocolate Liqueur and Wondermint.

I wasn’t quite as taken with Nonna’s, the adjacent sandwich shop, in part because it’s on the same block at J.P. Graziano, which makes the best sandwiches in the city. So while I liked the juicy meatball sub, with tangy housemade giardiniera, the much-lauded tripe sandwich was already removed from the menu, and the thin piece of chicken parm got lost in the thick bread. I might return to Nonna’s for another meatball sub, but I’ll definitely return to Formento’s. Quartaro makes old-school Italian feel new again. 

By: Amy Cavanaugh

Posted:

Venue name: Formento's
Contact:
Address: 925 W Randolph St
Chicago
60607
Cross street: at Sangamon St
Opening hours: Lunch: 11am-2pm daily. Dinner: Starts 4:30pm daily
Transport: El: Pink, Green to Morgan-Lake. Bus: 8, 20.
Do you own this business?
Static map showing venue location

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:5
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|7
1 person listening

I'm still dreaming about the Rigatoni Diavola. The calabrian chilis were so spicy, you could literally taste the devil in this dish. I was pleasantly surprised by the Gigli that paired a pork and mushroom ragu with kale. The brick chicken is something I’d recommend it as a healthy option, but wouldn't be something I'd come back for. Lastly...the chocolate cake. As someone who isn't too into sweets, it's my favorite cake ever. All in all, I definitely recommend going even if it's just for a few pastas and some cake.

tastemaker

Finally made it here for my friend's birthday last week...the food was INCREDIBLE! But the service was pretty slow. Despite having a reservation, we weren't seated for another hour after we got there, and there was no offering of a round of drinks or an apps to appease us, so we were starving! That said, we ordered family style for the table from the appetizers and the pastas and it was a perfect amount of food - the prosciutto, burrata, ricotta, kale salad, and pastas were all memorable in their own right. The wine list is strong and did not disappoint!


This is wonderful dining spot in the West Loop. The food is great & the service attentive. I highly recommend trying the meatballs which were amazing. They have a lovely cocktail selection & a solid wine list. Also the chocolate cake is to die for. Incredible. 

tastemaker

I decided to come here for dinner last night because I was sent a coupon in the mail. I saw on the coupon that they have a pretty good happy hour. We ordered a few drinks, which were very good. The ricotta with seasonal vegetables was perhaps my favorite dish. We also got the crudo, blue crab pasta and calamari pasta. I thought the pasta was pretty good but nothing special. I think if I came back here it would definitely be for the happy hour... The menu is more directed towards someone who eats meat. For example, the prosciutto wrapped veal looked very good.

Tastemaker

 I'm a huge fan of Formento's. At first you might think that the prices are a bit steep, but when you see the sizes of your servings you'll understand why. I was able to eat my mean as leftovers for days to come. Our waiter was incredibly helpful with wine pairings and recommendations. I got the chicken parm which was fantastic, but you really cant go wrong with anything on the list.

moderatorStaff Writer

On my last visit I ordered the eggplant Parmesan, thin slices of delicately breaded eggplant with a rich red sauce and layers of cheese stacked like a lasagna and is gladly order it again on my next visit. The menu is appropriately sized, unlike so many other Italian restaurants in town, and while the wine list is daunting, out waiter was more than happy to help us pick the perfect bottle.


A must when you're in Chicago, particularly if you like your Italian served traditionally and in monster portions. The meals—including an excellent eggplant parm—are made for giants (and served with a side of excellent al dente pasta) and the waiters will smartly talk you through the tome-like wine list.