Photo courtesy of Bar Roma


The Resy Guide for When You’re Craving Italian Food in Chicago


Chicago diners never tire of the comforting flavors of garlic and tomatoes; therefore, Chicago restaurateurs never tire of opening Italian joints. There’s no shortage of worthwhile Italian food in this town, from old-school red sauce classics (a genre we excel in) to newfangled hotspots focused on a single regional style (a genre that’s rapidly gaining traction). 

Italian American heritage is baked into the fabric of the city; you can thank the tens of thousands of Italian immigrants who moved here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries seeking work on the railroads. While Chicago’s official (and touristy) Little Italy is on the Near West Side, the best Italian restaurants are strewn all across the city. 

Some of these spots specialize in a specific cuisine or dish; others traffic in nostalgia and meatballs. Whether you’re craving a great bowl of pasta or a glass of esoteric Sicilian wine, we’ve got all of your Italian cravings covered, right this way.

For a table-filling antipasto feast: 

Gioia: The vibe at this West Loop hotspot from chef Federico Comacchio of Coco Pazzo is modern and posh, with windows facing Randolph and May Streets and the sounds of Fulton Market echoing nearby. Main courses are worthwhile here, but beforehand, order the fritto (fried calamari, shrimp, and tempura vegetables), caper-and-olive topped pizzette, and crispy artichokes for the table. 

See also: Old Town staple Orso’s has been serving classic Italian fare for over 40 years. The sausage and peppers, bruschetta, and pane e antipasti are all keepers. And if you’re down to ride out to the western suburbs, visit Il Mio in downtown Clarendon Hills and order two of their enjoy signature dishes: housemade meatballs over cheesy polenta, and a wedge salad topped with burrata and confit tomatoes.

For a great bowl of pasta:

Bar Roma: Cacio e pepe is one of the simplest, and therefore trickiest, Roman pasta classics to master. At Bar Roma, chef Alfred Ramos gets it right with handmade tonnarelli pasta enveloped in fresh pecorino and loaded with sharp, freshly cracked black pepper. (There’s plenty of other pasta, too, if white and creamy isn’t your thing—and a fascinating backstory at this Andersonville gem.) 

See also: The spicy mafaldine “di Granchio” at Coda di Volpe in Southport Corridor—which focuses on the lesser-explored regions of Southern Italy—is made with fresh linguine and lump crab meat, kicked up with a lashing of spicy Calabrian chile. Of course, we couldn’t write about pasta in Chicago without mentioning Monteverde Sarah Grueneberg’s temple to the stuff, with its own elevated pastificio (pasta factory) visible from the bar. 

For Sunday dinner like Nonna use to make: 

Ciccio Mio: Although it opened in 2019, walking into Hogsalt Hospitality’s (Bavette’s, Gilt Bar) latest contendor in River North feels like taking a trip back in time. From the oil paintings decorating the walls to the old-school butcher equipment adorning the bar, come here for a luxe take on all the classics, including truffle mozzarella sticks, chicken parm, and an eye-catching rolled lasagna bolognese. 

See also: The sprawling Italian Village has held court in the Loop for over a century, boasting the distinction of the oldest Italian restaurant in Chicago. And, of course, we must include well-loved, white-tablecloth Lakeview favorite Angelina Restaurant for its classic homestyle fare, including an unmissable veal francese. 

For new-school Italian vibes: 

Segnatore: The idea of anything new in the Italian food canon might be alarming, but this charming newcomer in Humboldt Park is deeply inspired by the history and heritage of Italian cuisine. Start with the cacio e pepe aranchi, slide over to the deconstructed “freestyle” lasagna with mushroom bolognese, and don’t miss the whole fried chicken with Calabrian honey and pickled hot peppers. 

See also: Provaré is a West Town favorite that fuses two cuisines–Creole and Italian–to great effect. Try the shrimp Hennessey scampi (exactly what it sounds like) or share some fried lobster tails with the table. And while newcomer Elina’s in West Town focuses on the classics, it has become a neighborhood hotspot for perfectly executing said classics (and yes, we do have advice for how to get in). 

For a good glass of Italian wine: 

While there is no shortage of places to get Italian wine in Chicago, there are only a few spots that provide unique selections both by the glass and the bottle. Figo Wine Bar is cozily tucked in the Lakeview East neighborhood, and has an impressive by the glass list list with wines from all over Italy. Come for happy hour, when pours are just $8. 

See also: Since 2006, Riccardo Trattoria has poured a huge array of Italian wines in Lincoln Park, from Puglia to Sicily to Alto Adige, with plenty of by-the-glass options. And if you’re looking for selections from Italy and beyond, Rose Mary in West Loop has an eclectic menu with favorites like Lambrusco, Etna Bianco, and Nebbiolo. 

Chasity Cooper is a writer and wine culture expert. When she’s not traveling, you can find her exploring the newest cocktail bar or restaurant Chicago has to offer. Follow her on Twitter at @bychasitycooper. While you’re at it, follow @Resy, too.