Chicago has an extensive number of fantastic Italian restaurants, specializing in everything from traditional cuisine to contemporary flavors. Though many of these are located in Little Italy, there are many high-quality places spread throughout the other neighborhoods, bringing an authentic taste of Italy to every corner of the city. Here’s our guide to the 10 best Italian restaurants in Chicago.
Taglioni Pasta. Courtesy of Balena
Balena‘s dinner menu is filled with traditional dishes and modern ingredients: light starters include wood-roasted shishito peppers and a bone marrow bruschetta. The pasta and rotisserie selections are similarly unique – the tagliolini nero (black squid ink pasta) is particularly popular and accompanied by sea urchin and fresh crab. Served alongside the delicious cuisine is Balena’s extensive selection of local and regional wines. For dessert, enjoy tiramisu, blueberry crostata or Amaro flights.
Quartino boasts a gorgeous outdoor terrace with a terrific view. During the colder months, the two-floor indoor space is elegant and intimate. The small plates, ranging from creamy duck prosciutto and Gorgonzola dolce to pancetta wrapped dates and carpaccio, are especially flavorsome alongside a glass of wine from Quartino’s extensive collection. Other classic dishes include the crispy polenta fries, house-made gnocchi and braised pork shank – the plates are served family-style.
A10 serves contemporary Italian cuisine with hints of new American influence. Its menu features complex and well-executed dishes sure to please even the most discerning diner. House-made pasta dishes such as saffron gemelli and sweetcorn tortellini make the most of fresh, seasonal ingredients. The interior is spacious and warm, with an open kitchen lining one half of the space and a full bar anchoring the other. Try one of A10’s cocktails – the Orchard City is particularly intriguing, with navy strength gin, agricole rhum, and green chartreuse.
Anteprima is a charmingly rustic Italian restaurant located in Andersonville, specializing in home-style cuisine. There’s a weekly menu of special plates: dishes include autumnal flavors such as slow-cooked rabbit, roasted squash with sheep’s milk ricotta, and grilled swordfish.
Nestled in the hip Logan Square, the warm atmosphere of Buona Terra Ristorante reflects its family-owned spirit. Rotating daily menus keeps things fresh and interesting: popular dishes include ravioli con vittelo, squares of pasta filled with veal, fresh mozzarella and a brandy cream sauce. Buona Terra also offers special chef-led events and a three-course prix-fixe option is available.
Davanti Enoteca reflects and emphasizes all things rustic and traditional, with repurposed barn wood, exposed brick walls and recycled light fixtures. One of its best loved dishes is the truffle egg toast, a cube of aromatic bread topped with bubbly Fontina cheese and delicate egg yolks. The selection of charcuterie and fresh cheeses is also hugely popular and the innovative pastas, pizzas, and fresh seafood round off its extensive menu.
The extensive menu at La Scarola showcases both traditional and modern plates, heightening seasonal ingredients by drawing out vibrant flavors. One of its most popular dishes is the classic Chicken Vesuvio, served in a light garlic and herb sauce. The restaurant serves traditional Italian desserts such as canolli, gelato and spumoni, and a full bar offers an extensive selection of wines and craft cocktails. The casual atmosphere, along with the huge portions, makes it a perfect place for family dinners and gatherings with friends.
Consistently labelled one of the best Italian restaurants in the city, Piccolo Sogno serves traditional recipes. The pastas combine complex ingredients with hand-made dough – standouts being the frutti di mare – a dish of black spaghetti brimming with mussels, clams, calamari, and shrimp – as well as the green and white ribbon pasta with veal ragu. The pizza is locally considered to be among the best in the region, hand-tossed and baked in a hot wood oven. To accompany the great food is an extensive wine list, featuring bottles from across Italy.
Sapori Trattoria serves traditional Italian dishes in an elegant setting, placing emphasis on fresh ingredients and bold flavors. The lobster ravioli is one of the most popular dishes on the menu, with a rich, sweet sauce and masterfully house-made pasta. As for starters, the grilled calamari is smoky and delicious, and the selection of charcuterie is incredible. Weekly specials at Sapori Trattoria include a wine tasting.
Spiaggia creates modern, experimental dishes inspired by the flavors and techniques of traditional Italian cuisine. Recently renovated, the restaurant has increased its emphasis on the contemporary. Among the most notable plates on the menu are the suckling pig with quince and fennel pollen; the raw diced venison antipasti; and the butternut squash ravioli with frog legs and beer.