il Porcellino

Restaurants, Italian River North
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Photograph: Jeff Marini
Bufala Mozzarella Caprese at il Porcellino
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il Porcellino
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Rigatoni Alla Vodka at il Porcellino
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il Porcellino
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Sicillian Seafood Salad at il Porcellino

Lettuce Entertain You introduces a modern Italian joint perfect for bringing the whole family.

“This place reminds me of somewhere,” my date said to me as we sat down at the table. “Every other Lettuce Entertain You restaurant?” I quickly replied. It’s true. When you walk into il Porcellino, the new spot in the old Paris Club space, you’ll see all the trappings of a modern Italian restaurant—old snapshots and vintage liquor ads on the walls, fiascos hung from the ceiling with twinkling lights. The space is large, with a variety of table sizes and a generally warm atmosphere. And it works. It’s charming, it’s friendly, it’s exactly where you want to take your family for a crowd-pleasing meal where everyone can find a dish to enjoy.

And most everyone will—this menu has plenty to offer. Ordering gnocchi is difficult for me, I tend to not like most versions of the dish; but il Porcellino does gnocchi well, making it light and fluffy in a hearty tomato sauce with prime beef, pecorino and rosemary. Starters don’t disappoint either—our server recommended the fried Brussels sprouts, a choice we were a little surprised at, but they have a nice bite, crispy and salty with a bit of bacon. The baked caciocavallo comes wrapped in prosciutto, reminding us of the turkey and cheese roll-ups we had as a kid, but with a more adult flair. The one dish I could have lived without was the signature il Porcellino dish. It’s off the menu for the summer, but it’s a meaty cut of pork belly surrounded by cicerchia beans, a fatty combination that doesn’t have enough flavor.

Il Porcellino’s hits and approachability make up for the misses, providing an easygoing atmosphere for people who want to push their boundaries, but just a little bit. You’ll still find plenty of safe, crowd-pleasing dishes for families and groups with, you know, picky eaters. Whether you’re starting your night in River North and heading to Three Dots and a Dash for a post-dinner drink or just looking for a low-key accessible pasta dish, il Porcellino is a dependable choice for the neighborhood.

Vitals:

Atmosphere: Dark walls and heavy wooden tables dominate the space while fiascos and twinkling lights hang from the ceiling. Walls are plastered with vintage liquor ads and old snapshots. It’s warm, inviting and family-friendly.

What to eat: The pastas are a sure bet, encompassing interesting dishes and heartwarming classics. We enjoyed all of our pasta, especially the gnocchi with tomato sauce.

What to drink: The cocktails from Lettuce Entertain You’s Julian Cox are not to be missed. Try the Jimmy Two Times, a smooth drink with rye, grapefruit, Amaro Nonino and Peychaud’s bitters. Wines take up the majority of the drink menu, with choices for red and white glasses and bottles along, as well as a few bubbly wines and Chianti.

Where to sit: The front area has a square-shaped bar with barstools surrounded by higher two- and four-tops. The back area is best for large groups, with tall booths and tables. For a more casual dinner, stick to the tables around the outside of the bar, you’ll get to watch the cocktail making magic and overlook the rest of the restaurant.

By: Elizabeth Atkinson

Posted:

Venue name: il Porcellino
Contact:
Address: 59 W Hubbard St
Chicago

Opening hours: Mon–Fri 4pm–12am, Sat 4pm–1am, Sun 4pm–10pm
Transport: El: Brown/Purple to Merchandise Mart, Red to Grand. Bus: 22.
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