If you’re searching for Chicago’s most delicious Italian cuisine, you’ll find that one of the city’s top ristoranti is right around the corner. Italian kitchens cook up delicacies in almost every neighborhood in the city.
Andersonville’s Anteprima offers an environment that’s at once comfortable and sophisticated. The chefs here lean toward local, organic, and seasonal foods to ensure that everything you taste requires a moment to savor the goodness. With recipes gathered from homes across Italy, the menu, replete with surprising flavor combinations, avoids cliché. You’ll choose from a unique list of eight ever-changing tasting plates or have it all with an assorted antipasti. All of the pasta is made in house, so when ordering the house specialty of orchiette with spicy house-made lamb sausage, bitter greens, chilis, and pecorino, it’s always perfectly done. Enjoy entrees like pork osso buco with saffron risotto and gremolata or grilled rainbow trout, farrow, swiss chard, preserved lemon, and sun-dried tomato pesto in the adorable outdoor seating area. With excellent, affordable wine and cocktail lists, Anteprima makes an ideal setting for cozy conversation or a small celebration.
If you’re looking to go all out, the Magnificent Mile’s Spiaggia is one of the top restaurants in Chicago–Italian or otherwise. While you can expect to pay around $100 per person, you’ll know it’s worth it as soon as you enter the luxuriously designed space overlooking Oak Street Beach. Internationally renowned chef/owner Tony Mantuano outdoes himself night after night offering dishes made with olive oils, cheeses, and wines from some of the finest artisans in Italy along with hand-crafted pastas and carefully selected domestic ingredients. Try the seasonal tasting menu and wine pairings (all seven courses are served with white truffle). You might encounter foods you’ve never tasted before–wood-grilled Nilgai antelope or risotto with sea urchin–but you’ll expand your horizons safely in the hands of this James Beard and Ivy award-winning chef.
In search of something more traditional? Coco Pazzo in River North delivers Tuscan-inspired traditional cuisine with some contemporary ingredients that will seriously satisfy you. Executive chef Chris Macchia chooses the freshest ingredients to make his seasonal fare sparkle, and the breads, pastas, stocks, sauces, pastries, and desserts (not to mention the duck prosciutto) are all made in house. On the menu, you’ll find classics like linguini with clams, gnocchi al ragu, and grilled ribeye alongside the more unexpected lasagna made of spinach noodles and wild boar ragu, black squid ink pasta with rock shrimp, or pancetta-wrapped Bob White quail. If you’ve saved room for dessert, please don’t miss the crostata of hazelnut cake, milk chocolate cream, and gingersnap crust served with caramelized bananas, strawberry jam, and cappucino gelato.
Little Italy is full of excellent eateries, but if you’re interested in avoiding a dangerously enormous portion of pasta, stop into Davanti Enoteca on Taylor Street. Created by the owners of the Francesca’s restaurants (one of which is located just across the street), Davanti offers small plates for sharing that include vasi, spreads like garbanzo beans or honeycombs served in mini mason jars, and boards, tableside presentations of vittles like marscapone polenta with the ragu of the day served on planks. Delicate pastas, pizzas, and entrees like grilled swordfish with brussel sprouts, pancetta, and Calabrian chilis round out the menu. You’ll want to try their house-infused vodka which flows from a tap behind the bar (made out of 180-year old repurposed wood) or visit the retail wine shop to choose a bottle to be uncorked at your table.
No matter where you are in Chicago, Italian cuisine will not disappoint. Buon appetito!