Best Italian on Taylor Street?
Trying to help a fellow chow hound from Pittsburgh. Need a recommendation for Little Italy Italian Food.
Taylor St. from Morgan to Ashland is as much a campus-town and tourism bureau-designated "Little Italy" as it is a bona fide Italian neighborhood. French, Mexican, and Asian food is now available amidst the Italian joints. Standbys include Al's for Italian Beef, Mario's for Italian ice, Conte di Savoia for Italian deli, and Pompei Bakery, where I find the soups, salads, and pasta better than the once-renowned pizza. Rosebud is a Sinatra-style sitdown Italian restaurant.
If one walks west of Ashland on Taylor through the medical centers, one crosses Ogden and hits a less publicized stretch of Chicago's erstwhile Little Italy. Ferrara Bakery is worthwhile, as is D'Amenzo's for pizza and meatball sandwiches, and around the corner on Western Ave. is Masi's Superior Bakery, said to have good bread and pizza but odd hours.
D'Amenzo's is on the corner of Taylor and Oakley. South on Oakley about a dozen blocks is the Heart of Italy neighborhood which is home to half a dozen time-warped Italian restaurants. One favorite is Bruna's. Keep an eye on the inquiry above yours for information on this patch.
An old Italian neighborhood free of the wages of popularity Taylor St. 'tween Morgan and Ashland is paying (e.g., scarce parking)is Grand Ave. from west of the Kennedy Expressway to the aforementioned Ogden Ave. The little grocery Bari Foods sells excellent subs from its meat counter in back, D'Amato's next door has arguably the best Italian bread and sheet pizza in town, and I've had satisfying, good-value meals at the restaurants Cannella's, Bella Notte, and Oggi.
As far as I know, Chicago doesn't have anyplace offering Italian food like the Strip in Pittsburgh, but the places above, while spread out, should give your friend from de 'burgh a lot of really good grub.
"Best" Italian on Taylor Street is of course subjective. I'll just consider 3 of the more traditional sit-down's on Taylor: Rosebud, Francesca's on Taylor, and Tuscany.
I guess the best way to describe Rosebud, perhaps unfairly, is that Frank Sinatra used to dine there. Great traditional Italian dishes, well prepared, served in large portions. More of an 'old school' approach but what they do they do well.
Francesca's on Taylor has a more open/airy/lighter interior than Rosebud and their menu could be characterized in similar terms. I wouldn't use the word 'nouvelle' but they have what I would describe as a more up to date menu, especially when contrasted with Rosebud. I've always had great service and food here.
Tuscany (on Taylor) has an open kitchen with a wood fired oven and a very large regular menu accompanied by a daily specials card that always has something I just must have. The regular menu offers lots of traditional dishes, including some great rustic classics (3 different variations on a theme of sausage, escarole, and beans - all excellent - for example). I must confess that the relative proximity of Tuscany to my office means that I eat here perhaps on average once a week, so my service experience may be somewhat skewed, but anyone I have taken to Tuscany always wants to go back the next time they visit.
So "best"? I don't know. Any of the above 3 have always been great to me for getting a quality Italian dining experience on Taylor. My back-of-the-matchbook characterization would be:
Rosebud - classic old school Italian
Francesca's - creative and fresh
Tuscany - you get to pick from both of the above
Rosebud on Taylor
1500 West Taylor, 60607
Francesca's on Taylor
1400 West Taylor, 60607
Tuscany on Taylor
1014 West Taylor, 60607
Have you ever tried Gennaro's? There are some earlier posts on the board. I am a big advocate of this place. First and foremost it is not a chain (i.e. Francesca's, Rosebud, and Tuscany)- its is a family run joint. Also the fact that you still have to be buzzed in by the owner behind the bar (the neighborhood used to be way more shady) is a plus. Oh yeah I really like the food- especially the gnocchi and the veal scallopini. The pasta is fresh made. They call the sauce gravy here, not sauce. Other things I like are the pizza bread and the breaded artichoke. Some people are turned off by the old school atmosphere and the fact that they card everyone under 60 for alcohol. I am generally a gourmet type person but this is authentic Taylor Street at least to me. Anyways hope not too many people end up going- its not that big. Also its only open Wed-Sunday nights. Below for your convenience pasted from Metromix:
1352 W. Taylor St.