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Excellent Chicago Italian

maculapr Nov 25, 2006 12:53 PM

Will be in Chicago for New Years Eve weekend( Sofitel Watertower).Have enjoyed Nomi, MK, Osteria Via Stato in the past, was not impressed with Alinea or Moto last year. Interested in outstanding italian restaurants; have been to Spiaggia, found it to be too stuffy for our taste. Looking for something more in the mold of Babbo, Alto, L'Impero in NYC. Cost is not important. Thanks for the help.

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  1. t
    tdiddy07 Nov 25, 2006 02:53 PM

    we have enjoyed Coco Pazzo on numerous occasions and have always been happy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tdiddy07
      wak Nov 27, 2006 03:05 AM

      I'll second the Coco Pazzo recomendation. I've been there quite a few times and it has always been outstanding.

    2. n
      NDJ Nov 25, 2006 04:14 PM

      Nothing exactly in the mold of Babbo here, but consider Cafe Spiaggia. I know you did not like the main restaurant, but the cafe is less stuffy. Pastas are incredible...very simple and delicate. Most of the entrees are wood roasted.

      I've been trying to think of a lively place with the hip factor of Babbo. Not sure I can come up with anything. Cafe Spiaggia matches the food, but it still is quieter than Babbo.

      As another poster mentioned, Coco Pazzo may be your best bet...it's more Tuscan in nature, a little heartier.

      1 Reply
      1. re: NDJ
        RMA Nov 27, 2006 02:31 PM

        I second the Cafe Spiaggia recommendation...Probably the closest thing to what you're looking for that you'll find here in Chicago.

      2. c
        chgo36 Nov 25, 2006 10:32 PM

        Try La Scarola...not stuffy, I think he does chicken dishes better than anyone. I usually order one of the specials. Great Gnocchi....grilled calamari and the sausage and peppers are very good.

        1. leek Nov 27, 2006 03:42 PM

          I'd also recommend Vinci. I think it is in the same spirit as Babbo, though a notch or two down (less offal, more casual, less pricy). Tone your expectations a hair lower than Babbo, and you'll like it very much.

          1732 N. Halsted St.

          1 Reply
          1. re: leek
            SuzMiCo Nov 27, 2006 08:33 PM

            I'm not a big fan of Vinci. The food is fine, but not nearly as special as Coco Pazzo or Cafe Spiaggia.

          2. a
            amoncada Nov 27, 2006 04:03 PM

            838 W. Randolph St.
            Cool urban atmosphere (not stuffy, just hip) and fantastic contemporary Italian food.

            LaScarole for great traditional Italian food.

            I agree that the Spiaggia dining room is a bit to stuffy and corporate. Spiaggia Cafe is quite good as well but much more casual...really more of a lunch place.

            1. j
              jbw Nov 27, 2006 04:51 PM

              A bit more upscale is Merlo. Not so much cutting edge Italian cuisine but very traditional Bolognese. Here's their website:


              A smaller neighborhood place, right off the CTA's brown line, is Terragusto. Some of its offerings are hit-and-miss but its home-made pasta is spot on.

              1851 W Addison St
              Chicago, IL 60613
              (773) 248-2777

              La Scarola's a lot of fun and very dependable, but quite frenetic and very much of a "Little Italy" experience (their Pasta e Fagioli Soup is a specialty).

              1. m
                Miseenplace Nov 27, 2006 05:15 PM

                A couple of others... La Bocca della Verita (Casual)Lincoln Square
                and Trattoria DOC or Trullo both in Evanston

                Both Chicago and Italian Natives dig it!!

                Forget you ever heard about Vinci!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Miseenplace
                  RMA Nov 27, 2006 06:27 PM

                  We used to live up the street from Vinci and ate there quite frequently...Never had a bad meal there, and, in fact, had some very good ones. I'd say that Vinci's on par with most restaurants mentioned in this thread, and better then some. Just my 2 cents, but I'd definitely keep it in the mix.

                2. t
                  tripton Nov 27, 2006 05:55 PM

                  i agree with the coco pazzo reccomendation. i enjoyed the atmosphere as well as the food.

                  1. a
                    augustus gloob Nov 28, 2006 06:07 PM

                    How is Gioco in the South Loop? I am planning on taking my fam for our annual holiday dinner.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: augustus gloob
                      wak Nov 28, 2006 08:04 PM

                      I've only been there once, but that one time it was about the worst Italian food I have had in a long time. No one at our table liked what they ordered. My pasta with a wild boar meat sauce was so overcooked, the pasta fell apart on my fork, and the sauce had no seasoning. I tried every plate at the table and they were all bland. Who knows, maybe the chef had a cold and couldn't taste anything. The place seems to be more popular than that experience would warrant, so they must do better for others.

                      For Italian, I would pick Coco Pazzo where I have been at least a dozen times and never had less than an excellent experience, although it is pricier than Giocco, or Topo Gigio up on Wells St which I also find consistenly good, if not on the level (or price) of Pazzo.

                    2. a
                      amoncada Nov 28, 2006 09:14 PM

                      My family and I went to Gioco last year during the holidays and the food was terribly dissapointing. The only J.Kleiner Restaurant that's any good is Marche. His restaurants are more about flash than chow worthy food.

                      1. m
                        maculapr Dec 7, 2006 01:27 AM

                        Thanks to all for the recs. Will go to Coco Pazzo. Happy Holidays to all.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: maculapr
                          wak Dec 7, 2006 01:52 AM

                          If you go, one of their signature pasta dishes is the Stracci - home made pasta with white truffle oil, asparagus or other seasonal vegetables and shaved parmesan. They have served it since they opened - 10 or 15 years? I have ordered a half serving after an appetizer as a lead up to the main course.

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