Food & Drink | January 20, 2023 7:00 am

Chicago’s 5 Best Italian Restaurants

Old school meets new school at these spots

Spread from Monteverde
Spread from Monteverde
Galdones Photography

There’s room for both old-school red-sauce joints and new-school Italian fare in Chicago. Options abound — and among them, just a few standouts that are worth a visit. Each spot offers a unique experience, whether you’re after an intimate date night, a buzzy dinner or a relaxed family meal. Below, our short list of the best Italian spots in Chicago.

Entree from La Scarola
Entree from La Scarola
La Scarola

La Scarola

West Town

Why you’re here: You want a classic Italian meal for two in a warm — albeit loud — setting.

What you’re ordering: Heaping portions of red sauce favorites including penne alla vodka and eggplant parmigiana. Save stomach space for the sausage and peppers, chicken Vesuvio and rigatoni mandera with chicken, sausage and escarole in a creamy vodka sauce. Wash it all down with a glass or two of wine from the global-influenced list.

721 W. Grand Ave. (map)

Interior of Torchio
Interior of Torchio Pasta Bar
Torchio

Torchio Pasta Bar

River North

Why you’re here: You want a neighborhood restaurant feel in the heart of River North.

What you’re ordering: A selection of handmade pastas with the friendliest service in town. The care Torchio Pasta puts into all of its dishes is apparent: From the signature torchio pasta with sausage, cremini mushrooms and a brandy-thyme cream sauce to the pappardelle with bolognese served in a Parmesan “basket,” each bite is better than the last. Other standouts include the semolina gnocchi, a decadent braised short rib risotto and an olive oil cake with the perfect crumb for dessert.

738 N. Wells St. (map)

Monteverde Mozzarella E Ham Tigelle
Monteverde Mozzarella E Ham Tigelle
Galdones Photography

Monteverde

West Loop

Why you’re here: You want a buzzing West Loop dining experience without the pretension. 

What you’re ordering: Hefty dishes to share like the burrata e ham featuring tigelle “pillows” that can be stuffed with burrata, prosciutto and seasonal mostarda and the ragu alla napoletana featuring osso bucco, soppressata meatballs, Italian sausage and fusilli. Monteverde put cacio e pepe on the menu before it was trendy, and its version is a knockout combination of bucatini, pecorino and ricotta whey to create a creamy, toothy bowl of pasta you’ll want all to yourself. Save room for dessert to enjoy the affogato with vanilla ice cream, Sparrow espresso and a coconut chocolate forgotten cookie.

1020 W. Madison St. (map)

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Entree from Ciccio Mio
Entree from Ciccio Mio
Ciccio Mio

Ciccio Mio

River North

Why you’re here: You’re looking for a sexy dining room with even sexier Italian fare.

What you’re ordering: A selection of appetizers like burrata,  truffle mozzarella sticks or three-meat meatballs. First course standouts include the spicy vodka rigatoni and the ricotta gnocchi with brown butter, fried sage and lemon. A traditional chicken parmesan and a coal-fired ribeye with fried rosemary are large plates built for sharing (or not), while the Italian cocktail and wine list makes for a perfect accompaniment to the hearty dishes.

226 W. Kinzie St. (map)

chicago best italian restaurants
Spread from Sapori Trattoria
Sapori Trattoria

Sapori Trattoria

Lincoln Park

Why you’re here: You’re in search of a cozy Italian restaurant for a family meal with attentive service.

What you’re ordering: Appetizers include many Italian classics executed consistently like bruschetta, fried calamari and burrata. Sapori’s wide selection of housemade pastas like the lobster-stuffed cappellacci and the bucatini carbonara have stood the test of time, while its dessert menu will have you making some tough decisions. End with an espresso martini and a hunk of homemade tiramisu or a scoop of Sicilian pistachio gelato.

2701 N. Halsted St. (map)