In a city as big as Chicago, there’s a wide variety of spots to get your Italian food fix. We’re talking Chicago institutions with no-frills dining rooms and platters of pasta, to ultra-modern Italian steakhouses and restaurants serving regional Italian cuisine. Whether you want to impress a date at a West Loop hot spot or host out-of-towners at a River North locale, there’s something for everyone and every occasions. Here are Chicago’s 17 best Italian restaurants.
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)
Why you’re here: You want a neighborhood restaurant feel in the midst of River North.
What you’re ordering: A selection of handmade pastas with the friendliest service in town. The care that 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 bolognese, served in a Parmesan “basket.” Other standouts include the semolina gnocchi, a decadent braised short rib risotto and an olive oil cake with the perfect crumb for dessert. Each bite here is better than the last.
738 N. Wells St. (map)
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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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 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)
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 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 hunk of homemade tiramisu or a scoop of Sicilian pistachio gelato.
2701 N. Halsted St. (map)
Why you’re here: You’ve planned a group dinner with people who like to see and be seen.
What you’re ordering: Adalina’s glamorous dining room is the perfect backdrop for an upscale experience and service. Enjoy a cocktail like the Zoot Suit Riot with tequila, Aperol, agave, lime and grapefruit and a bite of the quattro formaggi stuffed garlic bread while perusing the menu. Here you’ll want to share a variety of dishes with your table. Think seafood towers, handmade pastas in all shapes and sizes and a massive (and photogenic) veal chop parmigiana. There’s also a tasting menu if you want to leave your selections up to the chef.
912 N. State St. (map)
Why you’re here: Your in-laws are in town and you want to treat them to a cozy neighborhood meal.
What you’re ordering: Piedmontese cuisine is the star of the show here, and Osteria Langhe’s most famous dish is the plin, plump pasta pockets stuffed with cheese that transcend the seasons. Another standout dish is the coniglio, rabbit wrapped in prosciutto and served on a bed of creamy polenta. The hazelnut gelato affogato makes for a sweet ending. Stop by on Wednesday evenings for a $55 four-course menu.
2824 W. Armitage Ave. (map)
Why you’re here: You’re aiming to impress on a first date.
What you’re ordering: Start with indulgent arancini drizzled with fennel pollen and served with nduja aioli for dipping, plus the house chopped salad with salami, pepperoncini and a layer of freshly shredded ricotta salata. A visit to Alla Vita isn’t complete without an order of the ricotta dumplings, little pillows smothered in a delicious cacio e pepe sauce. Pizzas are another standout here with topping options ranging from soppressata and honey to black truffle and mushroom.
564 W. Randolph St. (map)
Why you’re here: You want a traditional Italian meal with a neighborhood feel.
What you’re ordering: Club Lucky is the definition of old school Italian. The supper club feel, checkered tiles and neon lights create a laid-back atmosphere for enjoying classic Italian fare, whether you’re with a large group or dining solo at the illuminated bar. Popular menu choices include the fried calamari, pasta squares with meatballs and chicken parm, all paired with a killer Martini, of course. Don’t skip the housemade desserts like buttermilk chocolate layer cake and amaretto ricotta cheesecake.
1824 W. Wabansia (map)
Why you’re here: You want a steakhouse, and your date wants Italian food for dinner.
What you’re ordering: This West Loop hot spot dripping with jewel tones sets the bar for a glitzy night out. Special occasion or not, Fioretta effortlessly blends the Chicago steakhouse experience with a modern Italian flare. Enjoy an expertly crafted cocktail like the Nice N’ Easy, featuring vodka, Bergamotto, elderflower, matcha, prosecco and lemon. Take the 44 ounce steak Florentine grilled over white oak or the monkfish piccata with parmesan breadcrumbs. Scratch pastas include macaroni alla vodka and squid ink lobster pasta with uni butter. End your decadent meal with the chocolate cake encrusted with hazelnut praline.
318 N. Sangamon (map)
Why you’re here: You want to enjoy al fresco dining in the heart of Old Town.
What you’re ordering: This Chicago institution has been slinging Tuscan-inspired dishes for 35 years. The warm ambiance inside is great, but so is the garden patio where groups can try dishes like baked clams with caramelized onion sauce and grilled calamari, as well as heaping pasta portions like fettuccine with lobster and shrimp and seashell pasta in tomato cream sauce with sausage and peas. Homemade desserts like tiramisu and salted caramel cheesecake are hard to resist.
1516 N. Wells St. (map)
Why you’re here: You want to escape Chicago’s winter in a warm and cozy neighborhood joint.
What you’re ordering: Kick things off with the burrata paired with roasted beets, sumac and honey and the scamorza-stuffed meatballs in red sauce. Homemade pastas are a specialty here, including the “freestyle” lasagna and paccheri with boar ragu, plus mains like the smoked tri-tip steak with Roman gnocchi. Close out the evening with an Espresso Martini and slice of olive oil cake.
1001 N. California Ave. (map)
Why you’re here: You’re in search of a solid date night with minimal effort and maximum satisfaction.
What you’re ordering: The definition of a neighborhood gem, Regalia is the type of place you want to be for classic Italian comfort food that’s perfectly executed each time. Whether dining in the dimly lit restaurant or ordering takeout, opt for the burrata caprese and Wagyu carpaccio with garlic, lime and soy to start. Favorite pastas include the rigatoni alla buttera with sausage and peas in a tomato cream sauce and gnocchi with truffle pesto cream. Regalia’s take on chicken parm and the short rib risotto Milanese are satisfying, stick-to-your-bones dishes.
5959 N. Broadway (map)
Why you’re here: You’re meeting out-of-town friends for a casual meal.
What you’re ordering: This relaxed, lantern-studded dining room provides a warm hideaway in River North. Here, ordering the ciabatta bread dripping with garlic butter is a must, plus one of the pasta dishes like gnocchi bolognese or spicy scampi spaghetti with Calabrian chilis. Hearty entrees like brick chicken Vesuvio and salmon piccata are spins on Italian-American classics, while generously portioned desserts like the towering tiramisu are tempting.
59 W. Hubbard St. (map)
Why you’re here: You’re grabbing a bite to eat before a show at the Magic Lounge or taking a break from one of Andersonville’s street festivals.
What you’re ordering: An order of meatballs — take your pick from beef, pork, chicken or veggie —and the suppli (rice croquettes) filled with mushrooms and smoked mozzarella. Handmade pasta is a must-order here with some varieties changing with the seasons. The butternut squash-stuffed tortelloni and cacio e pepe are recent favorites, while larger dishes including branzino with shrimp in a white wine sauce and veal marsala amp up the classics. Save room for bread pudding to round out your meal, and keep in mind Bar Roma offers a Wednesday to Sunday happy hour with a short list of food and drink deals.
5101 N. Clark St. (map)
Why you’re here: You’re craving high-quality pasta but don’t want a full-service meal.
What you’re ordering: Tortello specializes in handmade pastas that you can enjoy via counter service dining on site or take home, along with scratch made sauces, focaccia, meal kits and more. Husband and wife duo Dario Monni and Jill Gray offer a wide selection of house pastas including tortelli stuffed with burrata and topped with hazelnuts, balsamic, sage and parm, plus a braised duck pappardelle. Browse the retail assortment of imported foods to create the perfect at-home Italian meal for you and your guests.
1746 W. Division St. (map)
Heart of Italy
Why you’re here: You’re in search of a true Chicago Italian dining experience.
What you’re ordering: Since 1979, Bacchanalia has been pleasing Chicagoans’ palates with classic Italian-American dishes, great service and comfortable digs. Start with the caprese bruschetta with giant dollops of mozzarella, and don’t miss the bigger-than-your-face baked lasagna piled with layers of bolognese. The chicken bacchanalia with Italian sausage, green peppers and tomatoes in a wine sauce is another house favorite you’ll want to share (or not).
2413 S. Oakley Ave. (map)
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