A generation ago, Chicago’s Italian restaurants were strictly the red sauce and meatball variety but today, it’s a veritable feast from every part of the boot. We surely are blessed with excellent Italian eateries from fine dining via Spiaggia, RPM Italian and Gibson’s Italia to the affordable and family-friendly Quartino.
Spiaggia is the Italian spot along the Magnificent Mile and still one of Chicago’s top restaurants. If Spiaggia is the diamond of Italian in Chicago, then places like Bar Roma and Osteria Trulli (the only authentic Pugliese eatery in the Chicago area) are the heart and soul. Cozy interiors, welcoming owners and authentic menus that never disappoint make these hidden gems. In a sea of corporately owned restaurants, these indies never come up short in flavor, friendliness and sheer energy.
Piccolo Sogno offers dreamy interiors, a knock-out outdoor patio and Italian cuisine that is still satisfying diners after 10 years on the competitive Chicago restaurant scene. Locals and visitors have been swirling pasta at Phil Stefani’s Tuscany in Little Italy for over a quarter of a century and just when you think you’ve tried every pasta dish imaginable, a culinary artist like Sarah Grueneberg will wow you at Monteverde.
RPM Italian is celebrity-owned (Bill and Giuliana Rancic), but don’t hold that against it because it’s a great Italian restaurant in Chicago close to hotels, shopping and Michigan Ave. The space is outfitted in modern black, white and grey decor. It’s known for a housemade pasta program, featuring more than a dozen seasonal pastas at any given time. Start with one of their signature cocktails or a bottle from an extensive wine list, and then choose from the housemade pastas like Maine lobster ravioli and seafood risotto evocative of Mediterranean, slow-roasted meats, wild fish and seafood and Italian classics with just enough contemporary flair to make it sensually interesting. RPM Italian was recently named one of OpenTable’s Top 100 Restaurants in America. Steaks are impressive – the sister restaurant is RPM Steakhouse – as is service.