Chicago has long been known for having some of the best Italian restaurants. In fact, you can find great Italian food in almost every neighborhood. From red-sauce joints (like The Rosebud in Little Italy) to the more upscale options (such as the Michelin-starred Spiaggia on Michigan Avenue), there’s always something exciting for you to try. Here are a handful of new Italian restaurants in Chicago that definitely deserve your attention.
Set along Chicago’s new restaurant row in Logan Square (as opposed to the famed Restaurant Row on Randolph Street), Osteria Langhe showcases the best of Italy’s Piedmont region. The location’s intimate room is a great place to gather with friends or go on a cozy date. And when you bite into chef Cameron Grant’s daily creamy risotto, vitello tonnato (poached beef topped with crispy egg and tuna citrus caper aioli), rabbit loin and pancetta puff rolls, or grilled wild boar ribs, you’ll feel like you’ve been whisked to northwest Italy. You may even wonder why no one around you is speaking Italian.
There was a time when few quality Italian restaurants in Chicago graced Michigan Avenue along Millennium Park, but now your options are endless. When you enter Acanto, you’ll find yourself in a warm, comfortable room bathed in dark woods and rust-colored leather booths. Chef Chris Gawronski excels with handmade pastas and thin crust flat breads, so after taking one look at the menu, you’ll have trouble deciding between the black peppercorn rigatoni with spiced lamb ragout, the delicate tuna crudo with Calabrian chili, the spicy sausage and peppers, and the head-on pan-seared prawns. Not sure what to drink? You can speak to Acanto’s beverage director about their fantastic wine list.
Baffo at Eataly
Don’t let yourself get discouraged by Eataly’s large crowd. After one trip, you’ll learn that the truffle bar is worth the wait. Grab a table at the on-site upscale restaurant, Baffo, modeled after co-owner Mario Batali’s celebrated New York restaurant, Babbo. The beautiful room shines brighter when your table overflows with stracciatella (soft pulled mozzarella with black rice and beets), calamari alla puttanesca, raviolo ricotta topped with a farm egg and black truffle, or seared scallops served with maitake mushrooms and cauliflower. If you’re in the mood to treat yourself, you should splurge on the white truffle supplement.
Chef Sarah Grueneberg’s stardom began to rise when she took on the role of executive chef at Spiaggia, but then it soared even higher when she became runner-up on Top Chef. She capitalized on her surge in popularity by opening her first Italian restaurant in Chicago, Monteverde, just off of the West Loop’s white hot Randolph Street. With a full-on handmade pasta station in the middle of the restaurant, Grueneberg pulls inspiration from travels to Italy, Asia, and more. Once you’re settled in at your table, you can reward your taste buds with gorgeous sauteed rainbow trout, or sweet and savory winter squash-filled tortelloni with bacon, apple, and parmesan. Monterverde also has a full gluten-free menu, so you can indulge in delicious pasta even if you’re allergic to the pesky protein.
If you’re in the mood to experience regional Italian cuisine in a modern space, you should make your way up to Ceres’ Table in East Lakeview. The restaurant’s wood-burning pizza oven churns out the pies almost as quickly as you can order them. And the oft-changing seasonal menu takes advantage of what local farmers have to offer. So, depending on when you go, you may find steamed little neck clams with scallion and ‘nduja, a trio of prosciutto, tagliatelle Bolognese, or whole branzino grilled with broccolini and lemon.
If you’re looking for Italian restaurants in Chicago that are a cut above the rest, these five are a must.